Part 3

Course video 21 of 68

When DNA was found to be the genetic material, it was not known how this molecule could carry information. The structure of DNA thus became of critical importance. The available X-ray images obtained by M. Wilkins and R. Franklin only yielded a rough picture, and even R. Franklin, who had the clearest diffraction data, could not decide whether the molecules contained two or three strands. Both Pauling and Watson and Crick used molecular models with known inter-nuclear distances (bond length) and bond angles to predict a structure. While the model of Pauling was hardly realistic, since it used the protonated form of the phosphate, the model proposed by Watson and Crick proposed that DNA consists of a pair of DNA strands. Furthermore, it indicated that any nucleotide sequence could be accommodated in the structure. The only central biological issue that was addressed in the first paper was replication, and the famous sentence was really nothing more than a priority claim. Much more biology was discussed in the second paper. It was assumed that base pairing is sufficient to account for the fidelity of replication. The importance of DNA polymerase in replication fidelity was first demonstrated by Speyer.

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