Nucleic Acids as Genetic Material


Nucleic acids are long linear or circular macromolecules, either DNA or various types of RNA, that are composed of linked nucleotides. These molecules carry genetic information that directs all cellular functions.

Keywords: chromatin; DNA; RNA; histones; prions

Figure 1.

Escherichia coli cell infected with a T2 virus that is double‐labelled with radioactive isotopes, 35S in the protein coat and 32P in the DNA. Results of infection and removal of protein coats shows that it is the DNA that carries the information necessary for viral replication.

Figure 2.

A DNA molecule showing two strands of opposite orientation arranged as a double helix. Pairing by virtue of hydrogen bonds (‐‐‐‐‐) between purine bases on one strand with pyrimidine bases on the other, and their covalent attachments to the phosphate (P) and deoxyribose sugar (S) backbone, shows the three‐dimensional relationships of these components.


Further Reading

Avery OT, MacLeod CM and McCarty M (1944) Studies on the chemical nature of the substance inducing transformation of pneumococcal types. Journal of Experimental Medicine 79: 137–158.

Hershey AD and Chase M (1952) Independent functions of viral protein and nucleic acid in growth of bacteriophage. Journal of General Physiology 36: 39–56.

Prusiner SB (1997) Prion diseases and the BSE crisis. Science 278: 245–251.

Wagner RP, Maguire MP and Stallings RL (1993) Chromosomes: A Synthesis. New York: Wiley‐Liss.

Watson JD and Crick FHC (1953) A structure for deoxyribonucleic acid. Nature 171: 737–738.

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Judd, Burke H(Apr 2001) Nucleic Acids as Genetic Material. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000807]