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

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

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

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

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

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

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