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About the HGNC

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.  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 the mouse.

We have already approved almost 33,000 symbols; the vast majority of these are for protein-coding genes, but also include symbols for pseudogenes, non-coding RNAs, phenotypes and genomic features (see HGNC Search).  Individual new symbols are requested by scientists, journals (e.g. Genomics, Nature Genetics) and databases (e.g.Ensembl, Entrez Gene, MGI, RGD and OMIM), and groups of new symbols by those working on gene families or specific regions of the genome.  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 a bioinformatician. For eleven years, from 1996-2007, the HGNC was chaired by Professor Sue Povey and based at University College London. In September 2007 the HGNC relocated to the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), to join the PANDA (Protein and Nucleotide Database) group. We regularly attend international meetings such as American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) and Human Genome Meeting (HGM), and sometimes hold workshops in conjunction with these. This ensures that we are approving gene names in line with the needs of the scientific community.

We are a non-profit making body which is jointly funded by the US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the Wellcome Trust (UK).  We operate under the auspices of HUGO, with key policy advice from a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB).  We also use a team of specialist advisors who provide support on specific gene family nomenclature issues, and we work in close collaboration with staff at 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 provide 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 the Wellcome Trust 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 where possible.