Discovery of DNA: Many people believe that American biologist James Watson and English physicist Francis Crick

discovered DNA in the 1950s. In reality, this is not the case. Rather, DNA was first identified in the late 1860s by Swiss chemist Friedrich Miescher. Then, in the decades following Miescher's discovery, other scientists--notably, Phoebus Levene and Erwin Chargaff-carried out a series of research efforts that revealed additional details about the DNA molecule, including its primary chemical components and the ways in which they joined with one another. Without the scientific foundation provided by these pioneers, Watson and Crick may never have reached their groundbreaking conclusion of 1953: that the DNA molecule exists in the form of a three-dimensional double helix. 1869 was a landmark year in genetic research, because it was the year in which Swiss physiological chemist Friedrich Miescher first identified what he called "nuclein" inside the nuclei of human white blood cells. (The term "nuclein" was later changed to "nucleic acid" and eventually to "deoxyribonucleic acid," or "DNA.") Miescher's plan was to isolate and characterize not the nuclein (which nobody at that time realized existed) but instead the protein components of leukocytes (white blood cells). Miescher thus made arrangements for a local surgical clinic to send him used, pus-coated patient bandages; once he received the bandages, he planned to wash them, filter out the leukocytes, and extract and identify the various proteins within the white blood cells. But when he came across a substance from the cell nuclei that had chemical properties unlike any protein, including a much higher phosphorous content and resistance to proteolysis (protein digestion), Miescher realized that he had discovered a new substance Levene Investigates the Structure of DNA. Erwin Chargaff was one of a handful of scientists who expanded on Levene's work by uncovering additional details of the structure of DNA, thus further paving the way for Watson and CrickChargaff's realization that A = T and C = G, combined with some crucially important Xray crystallography work by English researchers Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, contributed to Watson and Crick's derivation of the threedimensional, double-helical model for the structure of DNA. Although scientists have made some minor changes to the Watson and Crick model, or

i. Tertiary structure—the locations of the atoms in threedimensional space. with your thumb pointed up and your fingers curled around your thumb. including the proteins that play vital roles in the replication and expression of DNA (Figure 4). since its inception in 1953. your thumb would represent the axis of the helix and your fingers would represent the sugarphosphate backbone.e. These features are as follows: • • • • DNA is a double-stranded helix. with the two strands connected by hydrogen bonds. that is. nucleotides are linked to each other by their phosphate groups. These hydrogen bonds provide easy access to the DNA for other molecules. and Cs are always paired with Gs. Structure of Nucleic acid • • • • Nucleic acid structure refers to the structure of nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA It is often divided into four different levels: Primary structure—the raw sequence of nucleobases of each of the component DNA strands. The DNA double helix is anti-parallel. taking into consideration geometrical and steric constraints. if you were to hold your right hand out. which means that the 5' end of one strand is paired with the 3' end of its complementary strand (and vice versa). the model's four major features remain the same yet today. which parts of which strands are bound to each other. As shown in Figure 4. Only one type of DNA. A bases are always paired with Ts. Not only are the DNA base pairs connected via hydrogen bonding. which is consistent with and accounts for Chargaff's rule. called Z-DNA. Secondary structure—the set of interactions between bases.have elaborated upon it. which bind the 3' end of one sugar to the 5' end of the next sugar. Most DNA double helices are right-handed.. is lefthanded. but the outer edges of the nitrogen-containing bases are exposed and available for potential hydrogen bonding as well. and .

each nucleotide has three components: a phosphate group. each with two fused rings.• • Quaternary structure—the higher-level organization of DNA in chromatin. and because they propagate their traits by doing so. Each chain is a polymer of subunits called nucleotides (hence the name polynucleotide). G. either a ribose (in the case of RNA) or a deoxyribose (in the case of DNA) sugar. In the complex or eukaryotic cells that make up plants. DNA structure Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA): • is the primary chemical component of chromosomes and is the material of which genes are made. each with a single ring. and a single nitrogen-containing base. animals and in other multi-celled organisms. We also know that there are two basic categories of nitrogenous bases: the purines (adenine [A] and guanine [G]). It is sometimes called the "molecule of heredity. Furthermore. or to the interactions between separate RNA units in the ribosome or spliceosome." because parents transmit copied portions of their own DNA to offspring during reproduction. and uracil [U]). (There are some examples of viral DNA which are single-stranded). most of the DNA resides in the cell nucleus. The energy-generating organelles known as chloroplasts and mitochondria also carry DNA. it is now widely accepted that RNA contains only A. as do many viruses. and U (no T). whereas DNA . In bacteria and other simple or prokaryotic cell organisms. C. and the pyrimidines (cytosine [C]. thymine [T]. DNA is distributed more or less throughout the cell. DNA is usually a double-helix and has two strands running in opposite directions.

and T (no U) (Fig1) . C. G. • Each strand has a backbone made up of (deoxy-ribose) sugar molecules linked together by phosphate groups. This linkage is also called 3'-5' phosphodiester linkage.contains only A. All DNA strands are read from the 5' to the 3' end where the 5' end terminates in a phosphate group and the 3' end terminates in a . The 3' C of a sugar molecule is connected through a phosphate group to the 5' C of the next sugar.

The interaction energy between two bases in a double-helical structure is therefore a combination of hydrogen-bonding between complementary bases. the bases prefer to be stacked (like the steps of a spiral staircase if the bases are identical) and a single-stranded chain . Guanine.sugar molecule. Even in the single-stranded state. and A-T rich regions of DNA are more prone to thermal fluctuation. Cytosine and Thymine). A and G are doubleringed larger molecules (called purines). C and T are single-ringed smaller molecules (called pyrimidines). the two strands run in opposite directions and the bases pair up such that A always pairs with T and G always pairs with C. The G-C interaction is therefore stronger (by about 30%) than A-T. and hydrophobic interactions between the neighboring stacks of base-pairs. The A-T base-pair has 2 hydrogen bonds and the G-C base-pair has 3 hydrogen bonds. In the double-stranded DNA. • • Each sugar molecule is covalently linked to one of 4 possible bases (Adenine.

2 negative charges per base-pair). • . If there is no salt in the surrounding medium.can also have regions of helical conformation. there is a strong repulsion between the two strands and they will fall apart. The backbone of polynucleotides are highly charged (1 unit negative charge for each phosphate group.