Overview of DNA Structure, Replication, and Repair

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Chapter: Biochemistry : DNA Structure, Replication, and Repair

Nucleic acids are required for the storage and expression of genetic information.

DNA Structure, Replication, and Repair


Nucleic acids are required for the storage and expression of genetic information. There are two chemically distinct types of nucleic acids: deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid ([RNA], see Chapter 30). DNA, the repository of genetic information, is present not only in chromosomes in the nucleus of eukaryotic organisms, but also in mitochondria and the chloroplasts of plants. Prokaryotic cells, which lack nuclei, have a single chromosome but may also contain nonchromosomal DNA in the form of plasmids. The genetic information found in DNA is copied and transmitted to daughter cells through DNA replication. The DNA contained in a fertilized egg encodes the information that directs the development of an organism. This development may involve the production of billions of cells. Each cell is specialized, expressing only those functions that are required for it to perform its role in maintaining the organism. Therefore, DNA must be able to not only replicate precisely each time a cell divides, but also to have the information that it contains be selectively expressed. Transcription (RNA synthesis) is the first stage in the expression of genetic information (see Chapter 30). Next, the code contained in the nucleotide sequence of messenger RNA molecules is translated (protein synthesis; see Chapter 31), thus completing gene expression. The regulation of gene expression is discussed in Chapter 32.

Figure 29.1 The “central dogma” of molecular biology.

The flow of information from DNA to RNA to protein is termed the “central dogma” of molecular biology (Figure 29.1) and is descriptive of all organisms, with the exception of some viruses that have RNA as the repository of their genetic information.

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