DNA Nomenclature

Russell A. Maurer ram3 at po.CWRU.Edu
Wed Mar 9 15:13:13 EST 1994

...stuff deleted about confusing nomenclature (+/- strand,
coding/noncoding, sense/antisense, etc. referring to DNA of course)...

The postings on this thread only confirm that anyone crazy enough to use any
of these terms in presenting their data guarantees to confuse half of the
audience, under any scenario.  That is why, a number of years ago, JBC put
out a policy edict forbidding the use of such ambiguous terminology in its
pages (I once had the citation for the publication of this edict, but can't
put my finger on it right now).  JBC, if memory serves, recommended the use
of the terms "template strand" (that's the one complementary to mRNA) and
"nontemplate strand" because only this terminology makes it crystal clear
that the point of reference is the RNA polymerase, not the human brain.  I
like this solution and think the other terms should be consigned to
history, at least when one is referring to a single gene.  For the viruses
we still need plus and minus since the genes aren't always facing the same
way.  But for viruses the context is usually clear - the original poster on
this thread who was confused about the M13 strands should keep in mind that
plus and minus in that phage are determined by the orientation of the
ori region.  Either strand of lacZ could end up in the phage particles,
depending on the orientation of lac relative to the orientation of ori.

Russ Maurer

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