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THE NUCLEIC

ACIDS.
STRUCTURE

RNA

DNA
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Friedrich Miescher in 1869
 isolated what he called nuclein from the nuclei of
pus cells
 Nuclein was shown to have acidic properties,
hence it became called nucleic acid

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Two types of nucleic acid are
found
 Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
 Ribonucleic acid (RNA)

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The distribution of nucleic
acids in the eukaryotic cell
 DNA is found in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells
(with small amounts in mitochondria and
chloroplasts)
 RNA is found throughout the cell

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DNA as genetic material: The
circumstantial evidence
1. Present in all cells and virtually restricted to the nucleus
2. The amount of DNA in somatic cells (body cells) of any given
species is constant (like the number of chromosomes)
3. The DNA content of gametes (sex cells) is half that of somatic
cells.
In cases of polyploidy (multiple sets of chromosomes) the DNA
content increases by a proportional factor
4. The mutagenic effect of UV light peaks at 253.7nm - the peak for
the absorption of UV light by DNA

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NUCLEIC ACID STRUCTURE
 Nucleic acids are polynucleotides
 Their building blocks (monomers) are
nucleotides

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NUCLEOTIDE STRUCTURE

PHOSPATE SUGAR BASE


PURINES PYRIMIDINES
Ribose or
Deoxyribose Adenine (A) Cytocine (C)
Guanine(G) Thymine (T)
Uracil (U)

NUCLEOTIDE
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Ribose is a pentose (5 C sugar)
C5

C4 C1

C3 C2

*Note how the Carbons are numbered* 8


Spot the difference

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P

THE SUGAR-PHOSPHATE
BACKBONE P

 The nucleotides are all


orientated in the same direction P

 The phosphate group joins the


3rd Carbon of one sugar to the 5th P

Carbon of the next in line.


(Check Slide #8) P

 Bonding between a ribose sugar


and a phosphate is covalent. P

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P
G

ADDING IN THE
BASES P
C

 The bases are attached to the


P
1st Carbon of the ribose C
sugar
 The order of the bases is P
A
important.
This determines the genetic
P
information of the molecule T

P
T
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Hydrogen bonds
P

DNA IS MADE OF G C
P
TWO STRANDS OF P
POLYNUCLEOTIDE C G
P
P
C G
P
P
A T
P
P
T A
P
P
T A
P 12
DNA IS MADE OF TWO STRANDS OF
POLYNUCLEOTIDE
 The sister strands of the DNA molecule run in opposite
directions (antiparallel double helix)
 They are joined by the hydrogen bonds between bases
 Each base is paired with a specific partner:
A is always paired with T
G is always paired with C
(Purine with Pyrimidine)
 Thus the sister strands are complementary but not
identical
 The bases are joined by hydrogen bonds, individually
weak but collectively strong
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THE BASES CAN
ONLY PAIR T-A & C-G

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WEAK HYDROGEN BONDS LINK THE
BASES AND THEREFORE JOIN THE
TWO STRANDS. THE H BONDS CAN ZIP
UNDONE EASILY.

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Purines Pyrimidines

Adenine Thymine

Guanine Cytosine
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Wilkins & Franklin (1952): X-ray
crystallography

© Norman Collection on the History of Molecular Biology in Novato, CA 17


Watson & Crick: Base pairing

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The Double Helix (1953)

Public Domain image


© Dr Kalju Kahn USBC Chemistry and Biochemistry

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More about the bases

Hydrogen bonds

Pyrimidines & Purines

3′ end & 5′ end

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3′ and 5′ Ribose

The 3′ and 5′ bonding to the phosphate, and the 1′ bonding to the


base are important to understand for DNA replication and later,
transcription.
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A DNA problem!
 Human genome (in diploid cells) = 6 x 109 bp
 6 x 109 bp X 0.34 nm/bp = 2.04 x 109 nm = 2
m/cell
 Very thin (2.0 nm), extremely fragile
 Diameter of nucleus = 5-10 µm
 So …. DNA must be packaged to protect it, but
must still be accessible to allow gene expression
and cellular responsiveness

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How is it all
held
together?

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Histone proteins
support the DNA

The nucleosome is an
8-protein core,
wrapped around a
single protein strand.
The DNA is wrapped
around these
proteins.
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Genes and Bases

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Exons and Introns

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Single copy genes
&
Highly repetitive sequences

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Highly Repetitive Sequences
•The 'gene coding region' (about 1.5 % of our DNA) codes for
a polypeptide (around 25, 000 proteins).
•Around 3% of the human genome is regulatory coding for
genetic switches which control development.
•The non-coding region function remains unclear but can be as
much as 5-45% of the total genome. Not correct to call it
‘Junk DNA’!
•These regions are often made of highly repetitive
sequences of bases each some 5-300 bases long. These are
referred to as satellite regions.
•Due to the combination of bases in the repeating regions they
tend to create dense and less dense DNA regions. These show
as bands of DNA, which are used in finger print technologies.
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