Structural Biochemistry/Contentious Terms

Contentious TermsEdit

These are scientific terms that currently seems to be in dispute. Whether the meaning or the usage of the terms is controversial, these terms should be used with careful considerations.



"The most fundamental relationship between two entities is homology; two molecules are said to be homogous if they have been derived from a common ancestor."[1] Homology are further divided into two classes: Paralogs and Orthologs. Simply, homology means to have common evolutionary origin.


The term, “homology” has been famous for being misused in the scientific communities including the scientific journals and letters. The battle to amend this misused word has a long history. Recently however, the scientific community have once again brought into a discussion for the outbreak of this misusage. 1987 was the pinnacle of this dispute with many prominent journals and scientist argued that the term homology was being misused as a concept of quantity and not quality. The term is defined as having a common evolutionary origin, but it is widely misused to explain the comparison of proteins.

A research was done recently[2] to confirm the accuracy of the term usage after the heated argument 20 years ago. Through reviewing hundreds of Pubmed documentations published in 2007, every article with the term homology was read and verified. However, only 57% of the 1966 reviewed had used the term homology correctly. There is still a misleading idea that homology can be used quantitatively. Also, interestingly, the error in the terminology was significantly lower in articles with language other than English. This study ultimately shows that the debate from 1987 still hasn’t been fully acknowledged or applied.


  1. Marabotti, Anna, and Angelo Facchiano. "When It Comes to Homology, Bad Habits Die Hard." Trends in Biochemical Sciences 34.3 (2008). Print.
  2. Berg, Jeremy Mark., John L. Tymoczko, and Lubert Stryer. Biochemistry. New York: W.H. Freeman, 2007. Print.