GO term classification
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14 months ago
joneill4x ▴ 150

Can a single gene can have GO terms for molecular function AND biological process AND cellular component? Or does a single gene belong to only one category.

Also, under cellular component, there are several subcategories. (Ex. protein-containing complex, virion component, cellular anatomical entity). Can a single gene have GO terms for multiple subcategories of cellular component? Or will a single gene fit under only one cellualr component subcategory.

GO Ontology Gene terms • 573 views
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a gene for sure is implied in biological processes, cellular components and molecular functions, and yes, it could be more than one.

Entering edit mode
14 months ago

From our FAQ:


It is possible and usually expected for a single gene/gene product to be associated with more than one GO term. The fact that you may have found that there are two or more different GO terms associated with a single gene/gene product in your results should not be a cause for concern.

The Gene Ontology allows users to describe a gene/gene product in detail, considering three main aspects: its molecular function, the biological process in which it participates, and its cellular location.

For example, the homeobox D9a gene product from zebrafish has numerous GO terms associated with it. Each term describes details about this gene’s molecular function, localization in the cell, or its involvement in certain biological processes. One GO term explains that this gene product carries out the molecular function of selectively interacting with DNA (DNA binding), while a different GO term explains that this gene product is found in the nucleus of the cell.

Trying to write one single term that describes in detail everything about a gene/gene product in a single statement would require the existence of as many terms as genes there are - for all species - in the planet. This would be very unpractical and not easily scalable. Instead, the use of ontologies help us organize information in a way that allows researchers to use the same term to describe a characteristic that is shared by more than one gene product (e.g. all the genes involved in the process ‘translation’), and more than one term to describe all the characteristics of each gene product, as in the example above. This is a reason why you would see more than one GO term associated to a single gene/gene product.

To answer your specific questions, a single gene product can definitely have multiple annotations in the same aspect (Function, Process, or Component). The same goes for the individual aspect: a single gene product's annotations can map back up to several different terms in the same aspect. A rather ubiquitous protein might have annotations to GO:0005737 cytoplasm AND GO:0005634 nucleus; a subunit of a complex might have an annotation to a child term of 'protein-containing complex' and an annotation to GO:0005634 nucleus, especially if it is not obvious from the complex where the protein might be functioning. A good way to mentally justify this is to remember many proteins have multiple functions and may do any of those functions in various areas of the cell- performing rather unrelated functions is called 'moonlighting'.

See also


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