About the HGNC
The HGNC is responsible for approving unique symbols and names for human loci, including protein coding genes, ncRNA genes and pseudogenes, to allow unambiguous scientific communication.
Authority and Responsibilities
For each known human gene we approve a gene name and symbol (short-form abbreviation). All approved symbols are stored in the HGNC database, www.genenames.org, a curated online repository of HGNC-approved gene nomenclature, gene groups and associated resources including links to genomic, proteomic and phenotypic information. Each symbol is unique and we ensure that each gene is only given one approved gene symbol. It is necessary to provide a unique symbol for each gene so that we and others can talk about them, and this also facilitates 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 other vertebrates including mouse.
We have already approved almost 43,000 symbols; around 19,000 of these are for protein-coding genes, and the remainder includes pseudogenes, non-coding RNAs and genomic features (see HGNC Search). All of our named genes are associated with a stable unique HGNC ID, which is linked to the sequence of the gene and stays the same even if the nomenclature is updated. Furthermore, we are committed to maintaining stable gene symbols where possible, and will only update symbols (other than placeholders such as C#orfs and FAM#s) in exceptional circumstances. We no longer provide nomenclature for phenotypes (where the associated gene is unidentified); our existing phenotype symbols were withdrawn in 2019 and requests for new ones should be directed to OMIM. Individual new symbols are requested by scientists, journals (e.g. Nature Genetics, Genome Research) and databases (e.g. Ensembl, NCBI Gene, 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. In September 2007, when Professor Povey retired, Dr Elspeth Bruford became the project lead and relocated the HGNC to the EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI). When Dr Bruford joined the Haematology Department of the University of Cambridge in 2018 the HGNC became a joint project between the University and the EBI.
We are a non-profit making body which is jointly funded by the US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and Wellcome (UK). We operate under the auspices of HUGO, with key policy advice from a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). We also consult with a team of specialist advisors who provide support on specific gene family nomenclature issues, and we work in close collaboration with staff at other gene nomenclature resources, especially the MGNC and RGNC.
All enquiries are handled confidentially and unpublished information is never disclosed without explicit permission from the submitters.
Data release policy
No restrictions are imposed on access to, or use of, the data provided by the HGNC, which are provided to enhance knowledge and encourage progress in the scientific community. The HGNC provides these data in good faith, but make no warranty, express or implied, nor assume any legal liability or responsibility for any purpose for which they are used.
Guidelines on use of data in publications (copyright and licensing)
It is a condition of our funding from NIH and Wellcome that the nomenclature and information we provide is freely available to all. Anyone may use the HGNC data, but we request that they reference the "HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee at the European Bioinformatics Institute" and the website URL where possible.