Worm Breeder's Gazette 9(3): 9

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A Plea for Nomenclature

Various Anonymous People

Systematic nomenclature has many advantages. especially when clones, 
strains, or information are being exchanged between laboratories. It 
encourages compact, clear and unambiguous notation, it preserves 
information about the source of the material, it makes book-keeping 
easier for both humans and computers, it can have mnemonic value, and 
it should help communication between laboratories and communication 
with the rest of the scientific community.
General systems of nomenclature do not, of course, need to be 
slavishly adhered to within a laboratory; indeed we all have our own 
in-house systems, adapted to our own resources, problems and so on. 
But in exchanging items between groups, or in making permanent records,
it is very helpful to have universal conventions. It is becoming 
particularly necessary now that clones, mutations and strains are all 
numbered in thousands. Some recommendations 
Clone names We suggest that pieces of cloned DNA are named like 
strains: each has the laboratory strain designator followed by a # (to 
indicate that it is a clone), followed by up to five alphanumeric 
characters. For example, BA#65 and TU#PTU1 are clone names. This 
permits 60 million different clone names for each group, which should 
be enough for most laboratories. You can add your own additional 
descriptors (e.g. whether it is a plasmid or a lambda) if you like.
Polymorphism names We encourage everybody to continue to use the 
existing convention to name RFLP's in C.  the 
laboratory allele designation followed by P (for polymorphism) and a 
number, all italicized. For example, eP6. This can be followed by a 
descriptor (e.g. eP6(Tc1 nr lin-12)) if you like.
Gene names More and more genes are being defined by cloning bits of 
DNA without any known mutants: enzymes, structural proteins, oncogenes,
transcripts of unknown function and so on. It would be helpful if 
these were given three letter names according to the existing system 
as soon as possible. This has already been done in many cases (e.g. 
cal-l, myo-2, Some of 
these may turn out to be pseudogenes; when this is known, we suggest 
adding 'ps' as an optional descriptor. For example, msp-61ps.Strain 
names It would help if strains were always given strain names when 
being sent between laboratories. The Caenorhabditis Genetics Center 
requires this when strains are sent to them, so it shouldn't be hard 
to do as a matter of course.
These suggestions will be subject to discussion at another stormy 
session at Cold Spring Harbor next May, along with more contentious 
issues like the renaming of genes and the use of exotic names. We 
thought it would be useful to air some recommendations.