Once upon a time, biologists were allowed to name things with whatever took their fancy at the time. Hence we have genes such as bride of sevenless and proteins like JAK (Just Another Kinase).
Well, that was all terribly amusing but now we are paying the price. Those witty biologists failed to anticipate that one day, we would have so much data that it would be useful if things were named systematically, so as we all know precisely to which gene or protein people are referring. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to figure out the answer to a question like “which protein kinase phosphorylates my substrate?” using the current databases. By “which”, I mean the precise sequence records that correspond to a name like JAK, or CSK, or Prkaa1.
It’s good to see some correspondence about these issues in Nature this week: