Bacteria research Material II Essay Research Paper — страница 2

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ACIDS, complex molecules produced by living cells and viruses. Their name comes from their initial isolation from the nuclei of living cells. Certain nucleic acids, however, are found not in the cell nucleus but in cell cytoplasm. Nucleic acids have at least two functions: to pass on hereditary characteristics from one generation to the next, and to trigger the manufacture of specific proteins. How nucleic acids accomplish these functions is the object of some of the most intense and promising research currently under way. The nucleic acids are the fundamental substances of living things, believed by researchers to have first been formed about 3 billion years ago, when the most elementary forms of life began on earth. The origin of the so-called genetic code they carry has been

accepted by researchers as being very close in time to the origin of life itself ( see Evolution ; Genetics ). Biochemists have succeeded in deciphering the code, that is, determining how the sequence of nucleic acids dictates the structure of proteins. two classes of nucleic acids are the deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA) and the ribonucleic acids (RNA). The backbones of both DNA and RNA molecules are shaped like helical strands. Their molecular weights ( see Molecule ) are in the millions. To the backbones are connected a great number of smaller molecules (side groups) of four different types ( see Amino Acids ). The sequence of these molecules on the strand determines the code of the particular nucleic acid. This code, in turn, signals the cell how to reproduce either a duplicate

of itself or the proteins it requires for survival. living cells contain the genetic material DNA. The cells of bacteria may have but one strand of DNA, but such a strand contains all the information needed by the cell in order to reproduce an identical offspring. The cells of mammals contain scores of DNA strands grouped together in chromosomes. In short, the structure of a DNA molecule or combination of DNA molecules determines the shape, form, and function of the offspring. Some viruses, called retroviruses, contain only RNA rather than DNA, but viruses in themselves are generally not considered true living organisms ( see Virus ). pioneering research that revealed the general structure of DNA was performed by the British biophysicists Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins and by

the American biochemist James Dewey Watson. Using an X-ray diffraction picture of the DNA molecule obtained by Wilkins in 1951, Crick and Watson were able to construct (1953) a model of the DNA molecule. For their work, the three scientists received the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The American biochemist Arthur Kornberg synthesized DNA from “off-the-shelf” substances, for which he was awarded, with the American biochemist Severo Ochoa (for research on RNA), the 1959 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The DNA that he synthesized, although structurally similar to natural DNA, was not biologically active. In 1967, however, Kornberg and a team of researchers at Stanford University succeeded in producing biologically active DNA from relatively simple chemicals.

kinds of RNA have a slightly different function from that of DNA. They take part in the actual synthesis of the proteins a cell produces. This is of particular interest to virologists because many viruses reproduce by “forcing” the host cells to manufacture more viruses. The virus injects its own RNA into the host cell, and the host cell obeys the code of the invading RNA rather than that of its own. Thus the cell produces proteins that are, in fact, viruses instead of the proteins required for cell function. The host cell is destroyed, and the newly formed viruses are free to inject their RNA into other host cells. structure of two types of RNA and their function in protein production have been determined, one type by a team of Cornell University and U.S. Department of

Agriculture investigators led by Robert W. Holley of Cornell, and the other type by James T. Madison (1933- ) and George A. Everett (1924- ) of the Department of Agriculture. Important research into the interpretation of the genetic code and its role in protein synthesis was also performed by the Indian-born American chemist Har Gobind Khorana at the University of Wisconsin Enzyme Institute and the American biochemist Marshall W. Nirenberg of the National Heart Institute. In 1970 Khorana achieved the first complete synthesis of a gene and repeated his feat in 1973. Since then one type of RNA has been synthesized. Also, in the early 1980s, a team of biologists at the National Jewish Hospital in Denver, Colo., proved that in some cases RNA can function as a true catalyst ( see