why does a dna molecule seldom replicate incorrectly

There are corrective mechanisms which double-check the new growing strands for errors. Cells have the capacity to repair most mistakes in DNA, whether mistakes are made prior to or during the replication process. Neel (1982) notes that at least eight different types of repair systems have been demonstrated. Some of these utilize excision of damaged bases followed by replacement with the correct base and subsequent ligation of the broken DNA strand. In general, these repair systems are rather sophisticated, utilizing several enzymes, coenzymes and energy resources of the cell. Recent studies have indicated that these repair mechanisms may have specificity for certain genes or for certain regions of chromosomes, and may respond to specific signal sequences.
Meanwhile, even as Miescher's name fell into obscurity by the twentieth century, other scientists continued to investigate the chemical nature of the molecule formerly known as nuclein.


One of these other scientists was Russian biochemist Phoebus Levene. A physician turned chemist, Levene was a prolific researcher, publishing more than 700 papers on the chemistry of biological molecules over the course of his career. Levene is credited with many firsts. For instance, he was the first to discover the order of the three major components of a single (ribose); the first to discover the carbohydrate component of DNA (deoxyribose); and the first to correctly identify the way RNA and DNA molecules are put together. During the early years of Levene's career, neither Levene nor any other scientist of the time knew how the individual nucleotide components of DNA were arranged in space; discovery of the sugar-phosphate backbone of the DNA molecule was still years away.


The large number of molecular groups made available for binding by each nucleotide component meant that there were numerous alternate ways that the components could combine. Several scientists put forth suggestions for how this might occur, but it was Levene's "polynucleotide" that proved to be the correct one. Based upon years of work using hydrolysis to break down and analyze nucleic acids, Levene proposed that nucleic acids were composed of a series of nucleotides, and that each nucleotide was in turn composed of just one of four nitrogen-containing bases, a sugar molecule, and a phosphate group.


Levene made his initial proposal in 1919, discrediting other suggestions that had been put forth about the structure of nucleic acids. In Levene's own words, "New facts and new evidence may cause its alteration, but there is no doubt as to the polynucleotide structure of the yeast nucleic acid" (1919). Indeed, many new facts and much new evidence soon emerged and caused alterations to Levene's proposal. One key discovery during this period involved the way in which nucleotides are ordered. Levene proposed what he called a tetranucleotide structure, in which the nucleotides were always linked in the same order (i. e. , G-C-T-A-G-C-T-A and so on). However, scientists eventually realized that Levene's proposed tetranucleotide structure was overly simplistic and that the order of nucleotides along a stretch of DNA (or RNA) is, in fact, highly.


Despite this realization, Levene's proposed polynucleotide structure was accurate in many regards. For example, we now know that DNA is in fact composed of a series of nucleotides and that each nucleotide has three components: a ; either a ribose (in the case of RNA) or a deoxyribose (in the case of DNA) sugar; and a single nitrogen-containing base. We also know that there are two basic categories of nitrogenous bases: the purines ( [G]), each with two fused rings, and the pyrimidines ( [C], [T], and [U]), each with a single ring. Furthermore, it is now widely accepted that RNA contains only A, G, C, and U (no T), whereas DNA contains only A, G, C, and T (no U) (Figure 1).

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