1022-7954/02/3806- $27.00 © 2002
Russian Journal of Genetics, Vol. 38, No. 6, 2002, pp. 622–627. Translated from Genetika, Vol. 38, No. 6, 2002, pp. 751–757.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2002 by Antonov.
The rapid development of molecular biology has
been accompanied by the appearance of new research
directions. Regrettably, molecular biologists do not pay
much attention to the problem of terminology, the
importance of which was emphasized by Wilczek .
New names that they give to the long-existing areas of
this science are primarily aimed at stressing immediate
urgency and signiﬁcance of these areas. Exactly this sit-
uation is observed with terms “genosystematics” and
Consider ﬁrst the meaning of term genosystematics.
For this purpose, we should ﬁrst deﬁne systematics.
According to the deﬁnition of G. Simpson, systematics
is a science dealing with diversity of living organisms
and each and all of their relationships. This is a very
broad but accurate deﬁnition.
Biologists study living matter at different levels of
its organization. They investigate both genotypes
cell DNA) and phenotypes (the ultimate
implementation of the genetic information contained in
genotypes). A few of phenotypic characters probably
can be transmitted in generations without participation
of DNA  but this fact does not bear much relevance
to our further discussion.
According to the above division and to emphasize
the difference in the subject matter of investigation,
terms phenosystematics and genosystematics has long
been proposed , but genosystematicists began using
the former term as an omonyme of its commonly used
meaning. For the sake of convenience, they applied this
term to all areas of the so-called “classical” systematics
(evolutionary systematics, cladistics, etc.) based on
organisms’ phenotypes. By contrast, genosystematics
was deﬁned as a science studying diversity of geno-
types and each and all relationships between them .
Later , the meaning of the latter term was reﬁned: the
subject matter of genosystematics is currently regarded
as molecular-genetic systems of organisms.
The researcher who is familiar with these deﬁnitions
immediately notices that some sections of genomics
(the so-called structural and comparative genomics )
and genosystematics have much in common. Their sim-
ilarity relates to the fact that structural genomics, com-
parative genomics, and genosystematics are all dealing
with speciﬁc features of organization of primary
Genosystematics has appeared long before the
development of techniques of DNA sequencing that are
the key methods of genomics. A number of major dis-
coveries in biology were made using methods of DNA
examination that are far simpler than complete genome
sequencing. Important contributions to the formation
and development of genosystematics (and thus genom-
ics) have been made by A.N. Belozersky and his collab-
The boundary between phenosystematics and geno-
systematics is rather vague and passes at the level of
karyosystematics. Indeed, it may seem that examining
the structure or content of alkaloids, carbohydrates,
fats, proteins, RNA or DNA, we simply study diverse
molecular characters of phenotypes. However, we can
obtain information on genotype organization only by
learning about the structure (primary sequences) of
nucleic acids and proteins. It was not without reason
that E. Zuckerkandl and L. Pauling suggested to clas-
sify all biochemical cell components into two classes:
semantids and episemantids, i.e., molecules containing
genetic information (semantids) and molecules only
indirectly related to this information (episemantids).
Episemantids are investigated by chemosystematics (a
part of phenosystematics). However, some authors even
now assign all studies of biochemical phenotypic char-
acters to chemosystematics. This is evidently unjusti-
ﬁed because the signiﬁcance of data provided by
semantids (giving an idea on the genotype organiza-
tion) and that provided by episemantides are incom-
Semantids are high-molecular polymers with many
characteristic structural traits. It is no accident that one
of the early reviews of semantid structures was entitled
of RNA molecules.” Moreover, compara-
tive semantid studies not only give us an idea on geno-
Genomics and Genosystematics
A. S. Antonov
Belozersky Institute of Physicochemical Biology, Moscow State University, Moscow, 119992 Russia;
fax: (095) 939-31-81; e-mail: email@example.com
Received July 24, 2001
A survey of publications dealing with comparative analysis of genomes shows that modern genom-
ics has naturally evolved from gene systematics—an area whose formation and development was substantially
inﬂuenced by the scientiﬁc school of A.N. Belozersky.