Category Archives: DNA
Just as last year, the “Dolphin Summer Internship Program” (Programa Delfín) has started and this time it coincided with #RealTimeChem week. Four students from various cities (and accents) around Mexico have come to our lab in Toluca in order to spend about 7 weeks of research in the field of molecular modeling and within our research of molecular recognition in biochemistry. Karen, Cynthia, Jesús and Marco have started their training today as they arrived to CCIQS so we went over the (very) basics of quantum chemistry, the (very) basics of Linux and the basics of Gaussian09. (I should really think about developing some web tutorials or something because this impromptu training is very exhausting!)
Their academic backgrounds are mostly centered around pharmaceutics and biochemistry although their ages range from the second to the fourth year of college education. Computational chemistry is pretty unknown to all of them; I’ll do my best to change that, while at the same time I make them aware of its power as a research tool and as a research field in itself.
Here is to a very productive summer! I hope we manage to get enough data for a paper and, more importantly, that they all get a good experience out of their time here, make new friends and learn something new that enriches their skills in this increasingly competitive world.
What a happy coincidence -if indeed it was- that #RealTimeChem week happened to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of the three seminal papers published in Nature on this day back in 1953, one of which was co-authored by J. Watson and F. Crick; of course I mean the publication for the first time of the structure of deoxyribose nucleic acid, or DNA, as we now call it.
You can get the original Nature papers from 1953 here at: http://www.nature.com/nature/dna50/archive.html (costs may apply)
Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid 737
J. D. WATSON & F. H. C. CRICK
Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: Molecular Structure of Deoxypentose Nucleic Acids 738
M. H. F. WILKINS, A. R. STOKES & H. R. WILSON
Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate 740
ROSALIND E. FRANKLIN & R. G. GOSLING
Nature’s podcast released two episodes (called ‘pastcast’) to celebrate DNA’s structure’s birthday, one of them is an interview with Dr. Raymond Gosling who in 1953 worked under Dr. Rosalind Franklin at King’s College London in diffractometry of biological molecules. If you haven’t listened to them you can get them here at nature.com/nature/podcasts. Of course, the history around the discovery of DNA’s structure is not without controversy and it has been long argued that the work of Franklin and Gossling didn’t get all deserved credit from Watson and Crick. In their paper W&C acknowledge the contribution of the general nature of DNA from the unpublished results by Franklin’s laboratory but that is as far as they went, they didn’t even mention photo 51 which Crick saw at Wilkins laboratory, who in turn got it from Gossling at Franklin’s suggestion. Still, no one can deny that the helical structure with which we are now familiar is their work, and more importantly the discovery of the specific pairing, which according to Gossling was a stroke of genious that probably couldn’t have happened in his own group, but without Franklin’s diffraction and Gossling’s crystallization there was little they could do. Details about the process used to crystallize DNA can be heard in the aforementioned podcast, along with an inspiring tale of hard work by Dr. Gossling. Go now and listen to it, its truly inspiring.
For me it was not the story of a helix, that I was familiar with; it was the story of the specific pairing of two hélices
– Dr. Raymond Gosling
Above, the iconic Photo 51 taken by Franklin and Gossling (have you ever noticed how most scientists refer to Franklin just as Rosalind but no one refers to Watson as James? Gender bias has a role in this tale too) To a trained crystallographer, the helical symmetry is evident from the diffraction pattern but going from Photo 51 to the representation below was the subject of hard work too.
There are million of pages written during the last 60 years about DNA’s structure and its role in the chemistry of life; the nature of the pairing and the selectivity of base pairs through hydrogen bond interactions, an interaction found ubiquitously in nature; water itself is a liquid due to the intermolecular hydrogen-bonds, which reminds us about the delicate balance of forces in biochemistry making life a delicate matter. But I digress. Millions of pages have been written and I’m no position of adding a meaningful sentence to them; however, it is a fascinating tale that has shaped the course of mankind, just think of the Human Genome Project and all the possibilities both positive and negative! DNA and its discovery tale will continue to amaze us and inspire us, just like in 2011 it inspired the Genetech company to set a Guiness World Record with the largest human DNA helix.
Happy birthday, DNA!