Chapter 8 DNA structures and functions

The landmark ideas of Watson and Crick relied heavily on the work of other scientists. What did the duo actually discover?

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.

Chargaff's rules states that DNA from any cell of all organisms should have a 1:1 ratio of pyrimidine and purine bases and, more specifically, that the amount of guanine is equal to cytosine and the amount of adenine is equal to thymine. This pattern is found in both strands of the DNA. They were discovered by Austrian chemist Erwin Chargaff.
chromosomes

A chromosome is a packaged and organized structure containing most of the DNA of a living organism. Most eukaryotic cells have a set of chromosomes (46 in humans) with the genetic material spread among them. During most of the duration of the cell cycle, a chromosome consists of one long double-helix DNA molecule. During S phase, the chromosome gets replicated, resulting in an X-shaped structure called a metaphase chromosome. Both the original and the newly copied DNA are now called chromatids. The two "sister" chromatids are joined together at a protein junction called a centromere.

karyotype

A karyotype is the number and appearance of chromosomes in the nucleus of a eukaryotic cell. The term is also used for the complete set of chromosomes in a species or in an individual organism and for a test that detects this complement or measures the number. Karyotypes describe the chromosome count of an organism and what these chromosomes look like under a light microscope. Attention is paid to their length, the position of the centromeres, banding pattern, any differences between the sex chromosomes, and any other physical characteristics. The preparation and study of karyotypes is part of cytogenetics.

How does DNA replicate? The double helix is unwound and each strand acts as a template (blue) for the next strand. Bases are matched to synthesize the new partner strands (green). In molecular biology, DNA replication is the biological process of producing two identical replicas of DNA from one original DNA molecule.

What damages DNA? DNA damage is an alteration in the chemical structure of DNA, such as a break in a strand of DNA, a base missing from the backbone of DNA, or a chemically changed base such as 8-OHdG. Damage to DNA that occurs naturally can result from metabolic or hydrolytic processes.

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