The Structure of DNA

As soon as scientists were convinced that the genetic material was DNA, they began efforts to learn its precise, three-dimensional chemical structure. In determining the structure of DNA, scientists hoped to find the answers to two questions: how DNA is replicated between nuclear divisions, and how it causes the synthesis of specific proteins. Both expectations were fulfilled.

X-ray crystallography provided clues to DNA structure

The structure of DNA was deciphered only after many types of experimental evidence and theoretical considerations were combined. The crucial evidence was obtained by X-ray crystallography (Figure 11.4). Some chemical substances, when they are isolated and purified, can be made to form crystals. The positions of atoms in a crystalline substance can be inferred from the pattern of diffraction of X-rays passed through it. Even today, however, this is not an easy task when the substance is of enormous molecular weight.

In the early 1950s, even highly talented X-ray crystallo-graphers could (and did) look at the best available images from DNA preparations and fail to see what they meant. Nonetheless, the attempt to characterize DNA would have been impossible without the crystallographs prepared by the English chemist Rosalind Franklin. Franklin's work, in turn, depended on the success of the English biophysicist Maurice Wilkins, who prepared a sample containing very uniformly oriented DNA fibers. These DNA preparations provided samples for diffraction that were far better than previous ones.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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