Detection of mutations in genes is vital throughout biology, however, this activity is time-consuming, expensive and requires a high degree of skill. This is unsatisfactory in a field which is increasing importance. Around 10–12 methods are commonly used with some predominating. All have their advantages and disadvantages and none is perfect. Sequencing is said to be the gold standard for detecting new mutations (and must be used to define it), but six or so methods have been described to make the search quicker to avoid sequencing the whole gene. These are called scanning methods. Other methods are used to detect known mutations and referred to as diagnostic methods. These methods will be briefly reviewed. Once mutations are described, they are usually published. The mutation lists are collected for convenience, analysis or research. In recent years, it has been realised that these lists are vital for research, patient care and commercial activities. These activities will be reviewed and the co-ordinating role of the HUGO Mutation Database Initiative will be outlined.
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