Molecular Biology: The Central Dogma


Although proteins are essential components of all aspects of cell structure and function, they are not sufficient for their own propagation. Instead, the information necessary to specify each individual protein is stored in nucleic acids. The ‘central dogma’ of molecular biology states that sequence information can be transferred among nucleic acids, and from nucleic acids to proteins, but sequence information cannot be transferred among proteins, or from proteins to nucleic acids.

Keywords: replication; transcription; translation; reverse transcriptase; adaptive mutation

Figure 1.

Information transfer between DNA, RNA and protein macromolecules. (a) Complementary base pairing in a short segment of DNA. The four types of nucleotides are represented by the bars (solid or open, long or short), and each nucleotide can pair with only one complement. (b) Information transfer between DNA (drawn as in part a) and RNA (green). RNA can also be used to specify DNA by an analogous mechanism. (c) Information transfer from RNA to protein. The 20 types of amino acids (the four oval shapes represent four of these) are linked according to the sequence of nucleotides in the messenger RNA, which in turn was copied from the gene in part b. The next amino acid which will be added is shown with its adaptor transfer RNA (tRNA) attached. (d) The central dogma of molecular biology specifies the forbidden information transfers.


Further Reading

Baltimore D (1970) RNA‐dependent DNA polymerase in virions of RNA tumor viruses. Nature 226: 1209–1211.

Cairns J, Overbaugh J and Miller S (1988) The origin of mutants. Nature 335: 142–145.

Crick FHC (1958) On protein synthesis. Society for Experimental Biology Symposia 12: 138–163.

Crick FHC (1970) Central dogma of molecular biology. Nature 227: 561–563.

Foster PL and Cairns J (1992) Mechanisms of directed mutation. Genetics 131: 783–789.

Judson HF (1979) The Eighth Day of Creation. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Luria SE and Delbrück M (1943) Mutations of bacteria from virus sensitivity to virus resistance. Genetics 28: 491–511.

Temin HM and Mizutani S (1970) RNA‐dependent DNA polymerase in virions of Rous sarcoma virus. Nature 226: 1211–1213.

Rosenberg SM (1997) Mutation for survival. Current Opinion in Genetics and Development 7: 829–834.

Stahl FW (1992) Unicorns revisited. Genetics 132: 865–867.

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Pukkila, Patricia J(Apr 2001) Molecular Biology: The Central Dogma. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000812]