A contig--from the word "contiguous"--is a series of overlapping DNA sequences used to make a physical map that reconstructs the original DNA sequence of a chromosome or a region of a chromosome. A contig can also refer to one of the DNA sequences used in making such a map.
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A chromosome is a very long molecule of DNA. And it is very hard to study it at once, so what researchers do is they break it into smaller pieces and they sequence each one of those individual pieces first, and then they attempt to put it together to reconstruct the original chromosome sequence. A contig is the physical map, which results from putting together several little overlapping bits of DNA into a longer sequence. The contig is the physical map resulting from taking small pieces of DNA that overlap and putting them together into a longer sequence.
Belen Hurle, Ph.D.
Research Fellow Training Program Coordinator
Dr. Belen Hurle is a staff scientist in the Division of Intramural Research and a program coordinator in the Intramural Training Office. Her current area of research is the study of primate genomes as a way to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. She uses a comparative genomics approach that involves sequencing targeted areas of up to 20 different primate genomes and comparing them to each other and to the human genome with the help of bioinformatics tools. As a program coordinator, she oversees the training experience of NHGRI postdoctoral fellows and summer students.