Sinden, Richard R.3; E. Pearson, Christopher3; N. Potaman, Vladimir3; Ussery, David4
1 Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark2 Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark3 unknown4 Comparative Microbial Genomics, Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark
This chapter discusses the structure and function of DNA. DNA occupies a critical role in cells, because it is the source of all intrinsic genetic information. Chemically, DNA is a very stable molecule, a characteristic important for a macromolecule that may have to persist in an intact form for a long period of time before its information is accessed by the cell. Although DNA plays a critical role as an informational storage molecule, it is by no means as unexciting as a computer tape or disk drive. The structure of the DNA described by Watson and Crick in 1953 is a right handed helix of two individual antiparallel DNA strands. Hydrogen bonds provide specificity that allows pairing between the complementary bases (A.T and G.C) in opposite strands. Base stacking occurs near the center of the DNA helix and provides a great deal of stability to the helix (in addition to hydrogen bonding). The sugar and phosphate groups form a “backbone” on the outside of the helix. There are about 10 base pairs (bp) per turn of the double helix.