Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2010;11(5):206.
doi: 10.1186/gb-2010-11-5-206. Epub 2010 May 5.

Between a Chicken and a Grape: Estimating the Number of Human Genes

Free PMC article

Between a Chicken and a Grape: Estimating the Number of Human Genes

Mihaela Pertea et al. Genome Biol. .
Free PMC article


Many people expected the question 'How many genes in the human genome?' to be resolved with the publication of the genome sequence in 2001, but estimates continue to fluctuate.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Gene counts in a variety of species. Viruses, the simplest living entities, have only a handful of genes but are exquisitely well adapted to their environments. Bacteria such as Escherichia coli have a few thousand genes, and multicellular plants and animals have two to ten times more. Beyond these simple divisions, the number of genes in a species bears little relation to its size or to intuitive measures of complexity. The chicken and grape gene counts shown here are based on draft genomes [50,51] and may be revised substantially in the future.
Figure 2
Figure 2
The trend of human gene number counts together with human genome-related milestones. Individual estimates of the human gene count are shown as blue diamonds. The range of estimates at different times is shown by the two vertical blue dotted lines. Note how this range has narrowed in recent years.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 51 articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Vogel F. A preliminary estimate of the number of human genes. Nature. 1964;201:847. doi: 10.1038/201847a0. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Chow LT, Gelinas RE, Broker TR, Roberts RJ. An amazing sequence arrangement at the 5' ends of adenovirus 2 messenger RNA. Cell. 1977;12:1–8. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(77)90180-5. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Berget SM, Moore C, Sharp PA. Spliced segments at the 5' terminus of adenovirus 2 late mRNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1977;74:3171–3175. doi: 10.1073/pnas.74.8.3171. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Energy: Understanding our Genetic Inheritance, The U.S. Human Genome Project: The First Five Years, Fiscal Years 1991-1995.
    1. The International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium. Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome. Nature. 2001;409:860–921. doi: 10.1038/35057062. - DOI - PubMed

Publication types

LinkOut - more resources