The subject of the last Science column was the metabolomics standards
workshop, which prompted a colleague to ask how many different "-omics" there
are. Genomics, some argue, is really the only -omics that properly
uses the suffix. The word "genome," according to the Merriam- Webster
Online Dictionary, derives from the German "genom," combining "gen" (gene)
with "om" from chromosom (chromosome).
But that hasn't stopped scientists from tacking -omes and -omics
onto dozens of non-chromosomal fields of study. In his opening
presentation at the metabolomics workshop, Dr. John Quackenbush
of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute joked that some estimate we're
nearing a thousand different -omics. Almost every comprehensive
approach to biology generating lots of data has been given an -omics
designation. Common among -omics is the idea that success can come
without necessarily knowing which information will prove most important
in the end. Here are some of the more prominent -omics:
Genomics — the study of the entire DNA sequence of an organism.
The genome is the only -ome that doesn't change with experimental
or environmental conditions. See www.genome.gov/.
Transcriptomics — the study of all the gene transcripts (messenger
RNAs) in a given cell or tissue — in other words, which genes are
turned on in any given situation. See www.genome.gov/13014330.
Proteomics — the study of all the proteins in a cell or tissue that
have been expressed (made) from gene transcripts (www.nhlbi-proteomics.org/).
Large-scale protein structure studies are considered proteomics
as well (www.nigms.nih.gov/psi/).
Lipidomics — the study of lipids in a specific cell or tissue. See
Glycomics — the study of carbohydrates in a given cell or tissue.
Metabolomics, metabonomics — the study of all the metabolites in
a cell, tissue or organism. This scienceincludes carbohydrates,
lipids, signaling molecules, etc. See www.metabolomicssociety.org/.
Toxicogenomics — the study of the proteins and pathways involved
in the response to environmental toxins and stressors. See www.niehs.nih.gov/nct/.
Pharmacogenomics — the study of how our genes affect the way we
respond to medicines. See www.nigms.nih.gov/pharmacogenetics/.
Nutrigenomics — the study of how nutrients in food interact with
genes. See nutrigenomics.ucdavis.edu/.
Ionomics — the study of how genes interact with ions. This
is particularly important in plant research. Plants that can take
nutrients more efficiently from soil can provide better nutrition,
and those that can collect toxic metal ions can aid environmental
For many more, check out http://biocomp.dfci.harvard.edu/tgi/omics_count.html or www.genomicglossaries.com/content/omes.asp.