A decade of human genome project conclusion: Scientific diffusion about our genome knowledge

Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2016 May 6;44(3):215-23. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20952. Epub 2016 Mar 7.


The Human Genome Project (HGP) was initiated in 1990 and completed in 2003. It aimed to sequence the whole human genome. Although it represented an advance in understanding the human genome and its complexity, many questions remained unanswered. Other projects were launched in order to unravel the mysteries of our genome, including the ENCyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE). This review aims to analyze the evolution of scientific knowledge related to both the HGP and ENCODE projects. Data were retrieved from scientific articles published in 1990-2014, a period comprising the development and the 10 years following the HGP completion. The fact that only 20,000 genes are protein and RNA-coding is one of the most striking HGP results. A new concept about the organization of genome arose. The ENCODE project was initiated in 2003 and targeted to map the functional elements of the human genome. This project revealed that the human genome is pervasively transcribed. Therefore, it was determined that a large part of the non-protein coding regions are functional. Finally, a more sophisticated view of chromatin structure emerged. The mechanistic functioning of the genome has been redrafted, revealing a much more complex picture. Besides, a gene-centric conception of the organism has to be reviewed. A number of criticisms have emerged against the ENCODE project approaches, raising the question of whether non-conserved but biochemically active regions are truly functional. Thus, HGP and ENCODE projects accomplished a great map of the human genome, but the data generated still requires further in depth analysis. © 2016 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 44:215-223, 2016.

Keywords: ENCODE project; human genome project; science teaching; scientific popularization.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Human Genome Project*
  • Humans


  • DNA