In the long history of genetics – and of our teaching about it – “mutation” generally has been defined as any change in DNA sequence. In addition, as the other guest editorial in this issue (“What’s in a Name: Mutation versus Variant?” by Garry Cutting) points out, the term “mutation” generally has carried a “negative connotation,” one that implies a phenotype that is somehow deficient. Next-generation genome sequencing, however, requires that we rethink our approach to the vocabulary we employ in the classroom when we address these concepts.

Massively parallel DNA sequencing has increased tremendously our ability to elaborate biological variation at the level of individual bases. How should we categorize for our students the immense number of changes in DNA sequence, irrespective of species, that have no discernible biological impact or whose effects are yet unexplored? Certainly, as Dr. Cutting points out, not all of these changes will have...

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