Skip main navigation

OMICS

In this article, we will read about how the term 'Omics' has emerged to describe the field of large-scale data-rich biology.
ome names
© Tom Cullup, St George’s, University of London
Omics is a new term that has emerged to describe the field of large-scale data-rich biology.
Members of this new group are recognised by the suffix “ome” and include the genome, exome, epigenome, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome.
Whilst the genome, exome, transcriptome, epigenome and microbiome relate to DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequencing, and therefore harness the same technologies which have driven the spread of genome sequencing, others, such as the proteome and metabolome, rely on entirely different technologies to generate the data.
We have already seen the terms genome, exome and epigenome throughout this course, you can see these definitions again in the glossary.
New omic terms that you have not yet met include the transcriptome, microbiome, proteome and metabolome. These are discussed below.
Transcriptome
In week 1, we discussed the central dogma of molecular biology, DNA to RNA to protein, which describes how the DNA template codes for the functional unit of protein. Transcription, the production of messenger RNA (mRNA), is the middle step of this process.
Analysis of all the transcripts being produced at any one time in an individual, disease state or cell tells us which genes are switched on or off. Furthermore, variation at the DNA level can be interrogated for effect on gene expression (the amount of mRNA produced) or splicing (the process which removes intronic sequence from the nascent mRNA to produce mature mRNA, ready for translation into protein).
In addition to mRNA, there is a veritable smorgasbord of other RNA species which are included in the transcriptome; these RNAs do not code for protein, but play multifarious roles in the genetic processes of the cell.
Microbiome
The microbiome refers to the genomic sequences of all the microbes inhabiting a bodily system, such as the gut or skin, or the entire body. By studying the microbiome we can ask two main questions:
  1. Who’s there? or Which species of microbes are present?
  2. What can they do? or What pathogenic genes do they have?
By answering these questions we can ascertain what a normal microbiome looks like and what differences we see in disease and during the course, treatment and cure.
The Proteome and Metabolome
All of the omes above are related to sequencing of DNA or RNA.
In contrast, the assessment of the proteome – all of the expressed proteins by a given genome or cell – and the metabolome – all of the small molecules (both endogenous and exogenous) present in a cell, system or organism – rely upon other techniques.
While sequencing of nucleic acid usually involves interrogation of individual bases of a growing polymer, proteomics and metabolomics typically rely on techniques which identify the entire molecule based on their charge and mass.
© Tom Cullup, St George’s, University of London
This article is from the free online

The Genomics Era: the Future of Genetics in Medicine

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education

close
  • 30% off Futurelearn Unlimited!