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 November 22, 2002 [posted]
 What's New for 2003 MeSH®

drop cap letter for t his article highlights additions and changes to the National Library of Medicine's (NLM's) Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) for 2003 including several areas of special emphasis.

A total of 1250 new descriptors were added to MeSH 2003. One descriptor, Nanotechnology was added after the publication of MeSH for 2002 bringing to 1251 the number of descriptors added since the 2002 MeSH. Ninety-three descriptors (93) were replaced with more up-to-date terminology, 20 descriptors were deleted, and more than 1727 see references (entry terms) were added. Lists of all new descriptors and of deleted and replaced descriptors are posted on the MeSH Web site. The Introduction to the Annotated Alphabetic List - 2003 is also posted on this site. The MeSH Browser is available with 2003 MeSH. 2002 MeSH is available as an optional link.

A new subheading, ethics, has been added with 2003 MeSH. It is "used with techniques and activities for discussion and analysis with respect to human and social values."

The Publication Type, Electronic Journals, was deleted. It had been previously used for cataloging but not for indexing journal articles. With a shift away from emphasis on physical form, it no longer was needed and, therefore, was removed.

The tree arrangement of the age group descriptors has changed for 2003 MeSH.

The following paragraphs give highlights of subject areas that were greatly expanded or arranged for 2003.

The ongoing joint effort with the Kennedy Institute of Ethics resulted in significant expansion and enhancement of terminology in the area of bioethics. Notable examples are the new "ethics" subheading and more than 89 new bioethics descriptors.

Plants and Phytotherapy
The terminology of plants including family, genera and species has been greatly expanded. Descriptors have been added for plant preparations in the D24 and D26 Trees. Indexing of articles in which plants or plant materials are considered therapeutically will be coordinated with Phytotherapy and the most specific available descriptor from the B6 Organisms-Plants Tree.

Chemical Actions and Uses
Chemical structure terms (such as Aminoglycosides) are being removed from the Actions branch (D27) as the first step in revision of the Pharmacological Actions. This effort will continue into next year.

The coverage of microorganisms associated with notifiable diseases has been expanded. This project was done in cooperation with the Epidemiology Program Office of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Both new headings and new entry terms were created and especially notable are the enhanced terminology of species in the genus Ehrlichia, and the serovars in the species Leptospira interrogans.

These have been expanded and completely revised to conform to scientific nomenclature with new headings containing scientific names plus many new entry terms for common names.

The A1 Trees (Body Regions) were completely revised to accommodate new headings for Abdominal Cavity, Thoracic Cavity, Upper Extremity, and Lower Extremity, conforming to the official nomenclature in Terminologica Anatomica.

Integumentary System
A new Tree A17 (Integumentary System) was created and includes descriptors previously in other A categories. It is defined as "the outer covering of the body composed of the skin and the skin appendages, which are the hair, the nails; and the sebaceous glands and the sweat glands and their ducts."

Genetics terminology was re-structured from subgroupings based on field of study to three new categories: Genetic processes (G5), Genetic phenomena (G13), and Genetic structures (G14). Many new descriptors were also created with the reorganization.

ADP-RiboseTransferases/NAD Nucleosidases
The ADP-RiboseTransferase/NAD Nucleosidase group of enzymes (including all of the bacterial toxins that fall into this category of enzymes) and their products, were revised and updated to clearly distinguish the polyADP-Ribose transferases, the mono-ADP-ribose transferases, the ADP-ribosyl cyclases, and the sirtuins.

The family of sugar-binding proteins called lectins is now divided into several new functional categories of proteins treed under lectins. The MeSH heading Plant Lectins was specifically created for the broad category of plant proteins that is generally discussed separately from the lectins that occur in various mammalian species. Citation maintenance will be used to maintain plant-related citations previously indexed under Lectins to Plant Lectins.

Vesicular Transport Proteins
A new descriptor, Vesicular Transport Proteins, was created to represent the broad category of proteins that are involved in transporting substances via vesicles throughout the cell. There are two new and two existing subcategories and a total of 25 descriptors now treed under this heading.

Peptide Hormones
A new descriptor, Peptide Hormones, was created. There are over 60 descriptors indented under this heading. The heading, Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins, was also created. There are over 40 descriptors indented under this heading that represent paracrine (locally acting) protein and peptide factors.

RNA-Binding Proteins
Several new protein categories were created under RNA-Binding Proteins including mRNA Cleavage and Poladenylation Factors, Poly(A)-Binding Proteins, Heterogeneous-Nuclear Ribonucleoproteins, and RNA Cap-Binding Proteins.

The integrins are a family of receptors in alpha and beta chains which are now organized as separate descriptors under the integrins tree. Also included under integrins are headings for many familiar integrin alpha and beta chain combinations (e.g., Integrin alphaXbeta2) along with their more common names (e.g., Complement Receptor Type 4).

Ephrins and Eph Receptors
New descriptors were added for the Ephrins and Eph Receptors. These are in accordance with the recently established nomenclature used for this rapidly emerging group of signaling proteins and their receptors.

Age Groups - Why the Changes?
After many years, the Tree arrangement of age groups and other descriptors formerly grouped with age groups have been changed for 2003 MeSH. As the 2002 MeSH example below shows, Infant and Adolescence were arranged under Child. In addition, descriptors such as Child of Impaired Parents are not limited to age 6-12 as was implied by its positioning in the Tree under Child do they no longer appear in the age groups. Adolescent is now a "sibling" to Adult, Child, and Infant.

Please also note that the descriptor, Adolescence has been chaned to Adolescent. In addition, the descriptors for population or patient groups were separated from those truly for age groups for 2003 MeSH.


Aged, 80 and over
Frail Elderly
Middle Age
Child, Preschool
Infant, Newborn
Infant, Low Birth Weight
Infant, Small for Gestational Age
Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
Infant, Postmature
Infant, Premature


Child (partial array)
Child, Abandoned
Child, Exceptional+
Child, Hospitalized
Child, Institutionalized
Child of Impaired Parents
Child, Preschool
Child, Unwanted
Disabled Children
Homeless Youth
Only Child

MeSH Publications and Data Distribution
MeSH publications (i.e., Annotated MeSH, MeSH Tree Structures, and Permuted MeSH) were again produced this year using portable document files (PDF) created from MeSH data maintained under the Oracle® Database Management System. 2003 MeSH data are also available in XML, the same general format used for MEDLINE® data. For more information on downloading 2003 MeSH data go to

PubMed will use 2003 MeSH in its translation tables and MeSH Browser as well as in the citation data as soon as end-of-year activities are completed. Please see the article, MEDLINE®/PubMed® End-of-Year Activities. NLM Tech Bull. 2002 Sep-Oct;(328):e7, for more information about these activities.

For more information about 2003 MeSH, please see the MeSH Home Page.

For questions concerning content, distribution, format, etc., please contact:
Jacque-Lynne Schulman
Medical Subject Headings

By Jacque-Lynne Schulman
MeSH Section

black line separting article from citation

Schulman JL. What's New for 2003 MeSH®. NLM Tech Bull. 2002 Nov-Dec;(329):e5.


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Last updated: 16 April 2012