HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee
For each known human gene the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) approves a unique gene name and symbol (or short-form abbreviation). All approved gene symbols are stored in the HGNC Database (www.genenames.org).
The HGNC ensures that each gene is given only one unique approved symbol, so that we and others can talk unambiguously about genes; these symbols also facilitate electronic data retrieval from publications and databases.
In preference each symbol maintains parallel construction in different members of a gene family and can also be used in other species, especially for orthologous genes across vertebrate species. The HGNC have already approved over 33,000 gene symbols; the majority of these (~19,000) are for protein-coding genes, but we also assign names to pseudogenes, non-coding RNAs, phenotypes and genomic features. New gene symbols are requested by individual researchers, communities working on a specific group or family of genes, authors submitting to journals that insist on the use of approved gene nomenclature (e.g. Nature Genetics, Genome Research, Genomics) and other databases that use or reference HGNC gene symbols (e.g. Ensembl, Entrez Gene, UniProt, MGI, RGD and OMIM). In all cases considerable efforts are made to use a symbol acceptable to workers in the field.
Problems of nomenclature in human genetics were recognised as early as the 1960s and in 1979 full guidelines for human gene nomenclature were presented at the Edinburgh Human Genome Meeting (HGM). Since then we have continued to strike a compromise between the convenience and simplicity required for the everyday use of human gene nomenclature and the need for adequate definition of the concepts involved.
The committee has grown from a single force (Dr Phyllis J. McAlpine) to a team of post-docs and bioinformaticians. For eleven years, from 1996-2007, the HGNC was chaired by Professor Sue Povey and based at University College London (UCL). In September 2007 the HGNC relocated to the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), to join the PANDA (Protein and Nucleotide Database) group. We regularly attend international meetings such as HUGO's Human Genome Meeting (HGM) and the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) conference, and sometimes hold workshops in conjunction with these. This ensures that we are approving gene names in line with the needs of the scientific community.
We are a non-profit making body which is jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust (UK) and the US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). We operate under the auspices of The Human Genome Organisation (HUGO), with key policy advice from an International Advisory Committee (IAC). We also use a team of specialist advisors who provide support on specific gene family nomenclature issues, and work in close collaboration with staff at MGNC and RGNC.
All enquiries are handled confidentially and unpublished information is never disclosed without explicit permission from the submitters. Further information regarding confidentiality can be found on the HGNC Website.
Our guidelines for Human Gene Nomenclature are regularly updated online.
Elspeth A. Bruford received her Ph.D. mapping retinal diseases at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, Edinburgh. After working in publishing, she moved to University College London in 1998 to join the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee, of which she is now the Group Coordinator. From 2000-2007 she was also the Managing Editor of the Annals of Human Genetics. In 2007 Elspeth gained funding from the Wellcome Trust and NHGRI to relocate the HGNC to the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) at Hinxton, UK.
Elspeth plays an active role in the annotation of the human genome, collaborating with all the major human genome databases, and as well as representing the HGNC at over fifty international meetings she has also served for two terms on HUGO Council.
Gene Nomenclature Advisor
Matt Wright received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London (UCL), and subsequently worked on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors at the University of Manchester. He joined the HGNC in 2000, and coordinated the HUMOT (Human and Mouse Orthologous Annotation) project. Since the move to the EBI in 2007 he now specialises on RNA nomenclature. During his long service with the HGNC he has approved over 11,000 human gene symbols, which means he has personally worked on around one third of the genes currently public in the HGNC database.
Gene Nomenclature Advisor
Ruth Seal completed a Ph.D. on mRNA stability in human cells at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. She worked as a literature curator for FlyBase at the University of Cambridge before joining the HGNC in 2008.
In addition to approving gene symbols, Ruth promotes the dissemination of this nomenclature by checking all manuscripts accepted for publication in the journal Genomics to ensure that approved gene symbols are used and by editing the quarterly HGNC newsletter.
Kristian Gray studied a B.Sc. in Microbiology at Imperial College London and an M.Sc. in Bioinformatics at the University of Manchester. In 2001 he joined the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute as a laboratory scientist for the Cancer Genome Project before becoming a senior web developer/bioinformatician within the Core Software Services team at the same institute. In 2012 he joined the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee at the EBI and is presently the team's scientific programmer providing bioinformatical and IT support.
Beth completed an M.Sc. in Bioinformatics at the University of Manchester. She subsequently worked as a research assistant providing bioinformatics support to the Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus flavus genome projects at the University of Manchester and North Carolina State University respectively. In late 2006 Beth joined the Ensembl project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute where she worked as a web developer before moving to the HGNC in 2013.
Frequently asked questions concerning human gene nomenclature can be found here, and if you have any other questions or comments for the HGNC, please complete our feedback form at http://www.genenames.org/cgi-bin/hgnc_feedback.pl.