Genetic Foundations

Perhaps the most remarkable property of living cells and organisms is their ability to reproduce themselves for countless generations with nearly perfect fidelity. This continuity of inherited traits implies constancy, over millions of years, in the structure of the molecules that contain the genetic information. Very few historical records of civilization, even those etched in copper or carved in stone (Fig. 1-29), have survived for a thousand years. But there is good evidence that the genetic instructions in living organisms have remained nearly unchanged over very much longer periods; many bacteria have nearly

FIGURE 1-29 Two ancient scripts. (a) The Prism of Sennacherib, inscribed in about 700 b.c.e., describes in characters of the Assyrian language some historical events during the reign of King Sennacherib. The Prism contains about 20,000 characters, weighs about 50 kg, and has survived almost intact for about 2,700 years. (b) The single DNA molecule of the bacterium E. coli, seen leaking out of a disrupted cell, is hundreds of times longer than the cell itself and contains all the encoded information necessary to specify the cell's structure and functions. The bacterial DNA contains about 10 million characters (nucleotides), weighs less than 10~10 g, and has undergone only relatively minor changes during the past several million years. (The yellow spots and dark specks in this colorized electron micrograph are artifacts of the preparation.)

FIGURE 1-29 Two ancient scripts. (a) The Prism of Sennacherib, inscribed in about 700 b.c.e., describes in characters of the Assyrian language some historical events during the reign of King Sennacherib. The Prism contains about 20,000 characters, weighs about 50 kg, and has survived almost intact for about 2,700 years. (b) The single DNA molecule of the bacterium E. coli, seen leaking out of a disrupted cell, is hundreds of times longer than the cell itself and contains all the encoded information necessary to specify the cell's structure and functions. The bacterial DNA contains about 10 million characters (nucleotides), weighs less than 10~10 g, and has undergone only relatively minor changes during the past several million years. (The yellow spots and dark specks in this colorized electron micrograph are artifacts of the preparation.)

the same size, shape, and internal structure and contain the same kinds of precursor molecules and enzymes as bacteria that lived nearly four billion years ago.

Among the seminal discoveries in biology in the twentieth century were the chemical nature and the three-dimensional structure of the genetic material, deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA. The sequence of the monomeric subunits, the nucleotides (strictly, deoxyri-bonucleotides, as discussed below), in this linear polymer encodes the instructions for forming all other cellular components and provides a template for the production of identical DNA molecules to be distributed to progeny when a cell divides. The continued existence of a biological species requires its genetic information to be maintained in a stable form, expressed accurately in the form of gene products, and reproduced with a minimum of errors. Effective storage, expression, and reproduction of the genetic message defines individual species, distinguishes them from one another, and assures their continuity over successive generations.

Lose 10 Pounds Naturally

Lose 10 Pounds Naturally

Studies show obesity may soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death in America. Are you ready to drop those extra pounds you've been carrying around? Awesome. Let's start off with a couple positive don't. You don't need to jump on a diet craze and you don't need to start exercising for hours each day.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment