Chapter 5: Genetic control of protein structure and function

DNA and RNA are polynucleotides, made up of long chains of nucleotides. A nucleotide contains a pentose sugar, a phosphate group and a nitrogen containing base. A DNA molecule consists of two polynucleotide chains, linked by hydrogen bonds between bases. Adenine always pairs with thymine, and cytosine with guanine. RNA which comes in several different forms, has only one polynucleotide chain, although this may be twisted back in itself, as in tRNA. In RNA, the base thymine is replaced by uracil. DNA molecules replicate during interphase. The hydrogen bonds between the bases break, allowing free nucleotides to fall into position opposite their complementary ones on each strand of the original DNA. Adjacent molecules are then linked, through their phosphates and sugars, to form new strands. Two complete new molecules are thus formed from one old one, each new molecule containing one old strand and one new. This method of copying is described as semi-conservative replication, because half of the original molecule is kept in each of the new molecules. The sequence of bases (or nucleotides) on a DNA molecule codes for the sequence of amino acids in a protein (or a polypeptide). Each amino acid is coded for by three bases. A length of DNA coding for one complete protein or polypeptide is a gene. The genome is the genetic code of an organism. During protein synthesis, a complementary copy of the base sequence on a gene is made, by building a molecule of mRNA against one DNA strand. The mRNA then moves to a ribosome in the cytoplasm. tRNA molecules with complementary triplets of bases temporarily pair with the base triplets on mRNA, bringing appropriate amino acids. As two amino acids are held side by side, a peptide bond forms between them. The ribosome moves along the mRNA molecule, so that appropriate amino acids are gradually linked together, following the sequence laid down by the base sequence on the mRNA. Features of a "genetic molecule": 1) The ability to carry instructions for the construction and behaviour of cells, and the way in which they grow together to form a complete living organism 2) The ability to be copied perfectly, over and over again, so that each cell has an exact copy of each "genetic molecule" Nitrogen-containing bases can be either purine (adenine and guanine) or pyrimidine (thymine, uracil, cytosine). Complementary base pairing is standard arrangement of bases in nucleotides in relation to their opposite pairing, such as thymine being paired with adenine and cytosine paired with guanine. The pentose sugar can be either ribose (in RNA) or deoxyribose (in DNA; has one fewer oxygen atoms in its molecule). "Double helix" is the 3D shape that DNA molecules form.

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Helicases unwind parental double helix. DNA polymerase is an enzyme that catalyses the polymerization of deoxyribonucleotides into a DNA strand. Free nucleotides have two extra phosphates added which activate the nucleotides enabling them to take part in the replication reactions. They are then broken off and released into the nucleus. Conservative replication: completely new double helix would be made from the old one. Semi-conservative replication: new molecule would contain one old strand and new one. Dispersive replication: each new molecule would be made of old bits and new bitts scattered randomly through the molecules. Triplet is a three-letter code or sequence of three bases that stand for one amino acid. tRNA has a triplet of bases (anticodon) at one end and a region where an amino acid can attach at the other. Base sequence on the DNA molecule determines the base sequence on the mRNA molecule, which determines which tRNA can link up with them. Each tRNA is specific for just one amino acid, so this determines the sequence in which the amino acids are linked together as the polypeptide molecule is made. The first stage in protein synthesis is known as transcription. The last stage is called translation.

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