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The Building Blocks of Nucleic Acids

This guide will focus on the "central dogma" of molecular biology. We will review the processes responsible for replicating the nucleic acid DNA, transcribing DNA into RNA, and translating an RNA sequence into a functional protein. Knowledge of these topics is critical before a more complex understanding of advanced molecular biology topics is possible. Just as importantly, knowledge of these topics is fundamental to understanding what inside our bodies allowed us to grow as humans and why our growth is different from that of other organisms.

Figure %: The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology

DNA is the nucleic acid that is responsible for "programming" many or our traits. As the material that composes our genes, DNA has become one of the most fundamental molecules in molecular biology. In Molecular Genetics, we will address some fundamentally important questions. We will learn how DNA, our genetic material, is copied and passed on from generation to generation. We will also address the issue of how the genetic information encoded into a DNA sequence is used in organisms to express certain proteins, the major constituents of cells. In addressing these major questions, we will also see how these processes are not perfect and look at how organisms protect against mutations that could potentially kill cells.

In this topic section, Structure of Nucleic Acids, we will begin our discussion at a more elementary level, investigating the structure of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. As DNA and RNA are the major molecules of molecular biology, understanding their structure is critical to understanding the mechanisms of gene replication and protein synthesis. The structural elements of each of these molecules play key roles in their performance of the various processes of the central dogma.