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Decoding the Language of Genetics

Subject Area(s):  GenomicsHuman Biology and DiseaseMolecular BiologyGenetics

By David Botstein, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

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Chapter 1: The Basics

© 2015 • 240 pages, illustrated (30 color, 10 B&W), index
Hardcover • $79 63.20 (click here to price in UK Pounds)
ISBN  978-1-621820-92-5
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  •     Description    
  •     Contents    
  •     Reviews    


In this book, the distinguished geneticist David Botstein offers help and advice to scientists and physicians daunted by the arcane technical terms that flourish in his discipline. The science of gene function has a vocabulary of specialized, sometimes confusing terms to explain how traits and diseases are inherited, how genes are organized and regulated in the genome, and how the genetic code is read and translated by cells. These terms are often a barrier to full understanding of the underlying concepts. Yet, as more and more individuals learn about their genomes, the information these sequences contain cannot be understood or explained without reference to the basic ideas of genetics. Botstein draws on his long experience as a teacher and pioneering scientist to explain and illuminate what many genetic terms mean and how they entered common usage.


1 The Basics
2 Implicit Experiments and the Functional Gene
3 Recombination and Linkage Mapping
4 Pathway Analysis
5 Regulation of Metabolic Pathways
6 Phage and the Beginning of Molecular Genetics
7 Transcription, Translation, and the Genetic Code
8 Suppression Genetics
9 Functional Suppression
10 The Genetics of Complex Phenotypes
11 Transcriptional Regulation of Gene Expression
12 The Modular Architecture of Genes and Genomes
13 Evolution Conserves Functional Sequences
14 Human Population Genetics
15 Inferring Human Gene Function from Disease Alleles
16 What Is Next in Genetics and Genomics?


review:  “David Botstein is a legendary teacher, as well as an outstanding scientist. Decoding the Language of Genetics presents his insightful, very personal dissection of the major advances that have led to modern genetics and genomics. Carefully explaining the critical roles of research on model organisms, he guides the reader to the exciting future of human genomics. Included are lively descriptions of his many scientific heroes—from Gregor Mendel to Seymour Benzer and Nancy Wexler.”
      —Bruce Alberts, President Emeritus, U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1993–2005)

review:  “Genetics researchers try to understand the molecular mechanisms central to life by studying an organism’s phenotype. The language that describes their approaches is familiar to the geneticist but often incomprehensible to everyone else. Master geneticist David Botstein has written a book that makes all this clear, explaining both the beauty of the logic involved and the language that has to be understood. Read this book, be inspired by the power of genetics, understand your genetical colleagues, and be overwhelmed no more.”
      —Paul Nurse, Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute

review:  “Genome sequences allow us to peer back into our ancestry and assist doctors in tailoring treatments for whatever ails us. But how are those not trained in genetics supposed to understand how genomes work? David Botstein, a world-class geneticist and a passionate teacher, combines these talents to offer a comprehensive primer on genetics. It’s a scholarly work, but written with such clarity that it provides a Rosetta stone for those who want to translate the arcane language of genetic analysis.”
      —Thomas Cech, Distinguished Professor, University of Colorado Boulder and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute