When the sequence of a genome is fully determined and each gene is annotated (that is, assigned a function), molecular geneticists can group genes according to the processes (DNA synthesis, protein synthesis, generation of ATP, and so forth) in which they function and thus find what fraction of the genome is allocated to each of a cell's activities. The largest category of genes inE. coli, A. thaliana, and H. sapiens consists of genes of as yet unknown function, which make up more than 40% of the genes in each species. The transporters that move ions and small molecules across plasma membranes take up a significant proportion of the genes in all three species, more in the bacterium and plant than in the mammal (10% of the 4,269 genes ofE. coli, ~8% of the 25,706 genes of A. thaliana, and ~4% of the ~35,000 genes of H. sapiens). Genes that encode the proteins and RNA required for protein synthesis make up 3% to 4% of the E. coli genome, but in the more complex cells of A. thaliana, more genes are needed for targeting proteins to their final location in the cell than are needed to synthesize those proteins (about 6% and 2%, respectively). In general, the more complex the organism, the greater the proportion of its genome that encodes genes involved in the regulation of cellular processes and the smaller the proportion dedicated to the basic processes themselves, such as ATP generation and protein synthesis.
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