In the fields of molecular biology and genetics, a genome is the genetic material of an organism. It consists of DNA (or RNA in RNA viruses). The genome includes both the genes (the coding regions) and the noncoding DNA, as well as mitochondrial DNA and chloroplast DNA. The study of the genome is called genomics.

A genome sequence is the complete list of the nucleotides (A, C, G, and T for DNA genomes) that make up all the chromosomes of an individual or a species. Within a species, the vast majority of nucleotides are identical between individuals, but sequencing multiple individuals is necessary to understand the genetic diversity.

The development of new technologies has made genome sequencing dramatically cheaper and easier, and the number of complete genome sequences is growing rapidly. The US National Institutes of Health maintains one of several comprehensive databases of genomic information. Among the thousands of completed genome sequencing projects include those for rice, a mouse, the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the puffer fish, and the bacteria E. coli. In December 2013, scientists first sequenced the entire genome of a Neanderthal, an extinct species of humans. The genome was extracted from the toe bone of a 130,000-year-old Neanderthal found in a Siberian cave.

Reference genome sequences and maps continue to be updated, removing errors and clarifying regions of high allelic complexity. The decreasing cost of genomic mapping has permitted genealogical sites to offer it as a service, to the extent that one may submit one's genome to crowdsourced scientific endeavours such as DNA.LAND at the New York Genome Center, an example both of the economies of scale and of citizen science.

DNA sequences that carry the instructions to make proteins are coding sequences. The proportion of the genome occupied by coding sequences varies widely. A larger genome does not necessarily contain more genes, and the proportion of non-repetitive DNA decreases along with increasing genome size in complex eukaryotes.

Long terminal repeats (LTRs) are derived from ancient retroviral infections, so they encode proteins related to retroviral proteins including gag (structural proteins of the virus), pol (reverse transcriptase and integrase), pro (protease), and in some cases env (envelope) genes. These genes are flanked by long repeats at both 5' and 3' ends. It has been reported that LTRs consist of the largest fraction in most plant genome and might account for the huge variation in genome size.

Genome size is the total number of DNA base pairs in one copy of a haploid genome. In humans, the nuclear genome comprises approximately 3.2 billion nucleotides of DNA, divided into 24 linear molecules, the shortest 50 000 000 nucleotides in length and the longest 260 000 000 nucleotides, each contained in a different chromosome. The genome size is positively correlated with the morphological complexity among prokaryotes and lower eukaryotes; however, after mollusks and all the other higher eukaryotes above, this correlation is no longer effective. This phenomenon also indicates the mighty influence coming from repetitive DNA on the genomes.

Genomes are more than the sum of an organism's genes and have traits that may be measured and studied without reference to the details of any particular genes and their products. Researchers compare traits such as karyotype (chromosome number), genome size, gene order, codon usage bias, and GC-content to determine what mechanisms could have produced the great variety of genomes that exist today (for recent overviews, see Brown 2002; Saccone and Pesole 2003; Benfey and Protopapas 2004; Gibson and Muse 2004; Reese 2004; Gregory 2005).

Michael Crichton's 1990 novel Jurassic Park and the subsequent film tell the story of a billionaire who creates a theme park of cloned dinosaurs on a remote island, with disastrous outcomes. A geneticist extracts dinosaur DNA from the blood of ancient mosquitoes and fills in the gaps with DNA from modern species to create several species of dinosaurs. A chaos theorist is asked to give his expert opinion on the safety of engineering an ecosystem with the dinosaurs, and he repeatedly warns that the outcomes of the project will be unpredictable and ultimately uncontrollable. These warnings about the perils of using genomic information are a major theme of the book.