Editorial Style and Conventions

UK/US spelling

Articles can be written using either American or British spelling conventions; however, these should be used consistently throughout the article. Authors should be aware that, if accepted, inconsistent usage will be corrected during the copyediting stage.

Use of abbreviations

Terms that are used in an abbreviated form should be included in a list of abbreviations. For the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with the subject matter of your article, you are encouraged to define abbreviated terms either at first mention or in a list of abbreviations.

Gene names

Authors are encouraged to use the symbols and nomenclature recommended by the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee which is responsible for approving and implementing unique human gene symbols and names, and works closely with the Mouse Genome Database and other organism databases. Considerable efforts are made to approve symbols acceptable to workers in the field, but sometimes it is not possible to use exactly what has previously appeared in the literature. In such cases the previously used symbols are listed as aliases for the approved nomenclature in the Human Genome Nomenclature Database and Entrez Gene to allow retrieval of all the information available for each gene.

Approved human gene symbols may be obtained before submission from the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC), European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridgeshire CB10 1SA, U.K.; fax: +44 (0)1223 494 468; email:hgnc@genenames.org.

Approved mouse nomenclature may be obtained before submission from Lois Maltais, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME 04609-0800, U.S.A.; tel: +1 207 288 6429; fax: +1 207 288 6132; email: nomen@informatics.jax.org; http://www.informatics.jax.org/mgihome/nomen/

A consistent style should be adopted when referring to genes throughout the article and it should be clear when reference is being made to the gene or its counterpart protein.

Amino acids/protein peptide sequences

  • The three letter amino acid notation should be used when referring to specific residues, e.g. Arg-123, Arg123 or Arg123 (use one style consistently throughout the article)
  • The single letter amino acid notation should be used only in peptide or protein sequences or to denote substitutions
  • In other cases within the text, the amino acid (residue) should be spelled out in full.
  • Amino acid mutations can be denoted using either notation, e.g. Y23A or Tyr23→Ala


Scientific genus and species names should be presented in italics. Ensure that the genus name is spelled out in full at least once in the article, preferably at first mention. Other taxonomic groupings should be presented in roman letters.

Kinetic parameters

These parameters should be presented in the following style (note italicization and roman/superscript) and should be used consistently throughout the article including in any displayed equations:

kmax, Vmax, Kd, Ki, koff, kon, k1

Statistics and probability

Data from a sufficient number of independent experiments should be reported to permit evaluation of the reproducibility and significance of the results. When the object is to determine the value of a quantity or the statistical characteristics of a population, sufficient information is usually conveyed by the following: (i) the number of independent experiments (replicate measurements in an individual animal or preparation and results from pooled tissues etc. represent only one independent estimate); (ii) the mean value; (iii) the standard error of the estimate of mean value (S.E.M.), the standard deviation (S.D.) or the coefficient of variation, as may be appropriate. It should be made clear whether the S.E.M. or S.D. is used. Where statistical analysis is performed on replicate values within a single experiment, evidence should also be provided for reproducibility of findings between independent experiments (it would normally be expected that an experiment has been performed at least three times). In analysing the statistical significance of differences between data sets, it should be made clear which statistical tests have been applied and the choice of statistical test should be appropriate to the analysis.

The statistical parameters should be presented as follows:

Statistical significance; italic upper case: P

Correlation coefficient; italic lower case: r

Number of observations/sample size; italic lower case: n


When referring to antibodies, we encourage authors to specify an antibody’s target by adding the prefix “anti-” to the target. For example, an antibody raised against β-actin should be referred to as an “anti-β-actin antibody” rather than a “β-actin antibody”

Absorbance/attenuance/optical density

Authors are discouraged from using the term optical density (OD) when referring to light transmission. The following terms should be used instead (specifying the wavelength in each case):

Attenuance (D) – used when referring to light scattering due to turbidity (e.g. in cell cultures)

Absorbance (A) – should be used for all other cases (e.g. for absorption by dyes).  


Centrifugation speeds can be presented as either revolutions per minute or as g value. If the former is used authors should also indicate the rotor type.