Sunday, March 30, 2008

Solving the DNA Puzzle

In the late 1940's, the members of the scientific community were aware that DNA was most likely the molecule of life, even though many were skeptical since it was so "simple." They also knew that DNA included different amounts of the four bases adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine (usually abbreviated A, T, G and C), but nobody had the slightest idea of what the molecule might look like.

In order to solve the elusive structure of DNA, a couple of distinct pieces of information needed to be put together. One was that the phosphate backbone was on the outside with bases on the inside; another that the molecule was a double helix. It was also important to figure out that the two strands run in opposite directions and that the molecule had a specific base pairing.

As in the solving of other complex problems, the work of many people was needed to establish the full picture.

The original DNA model by Watson and Crick. Photo: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives

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