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CHAPTER 5
MOLECULAR BASIS OF
INHERITANCE
5.1 The DNA
5.2 The Search for Genetic
Material
5.3 RNA World
5.4 Replication
5.5 Transcription
5.6 Genetic Code
5.7 Translation
5.8 Regulation of Gene
Expression
5.9 Human Genome Project
5.10 DNA Fingerprinting
In the previous chapter, you have learnt the inheritance
patterns and the genetic basis of such patterns. At the
time of Mendel, the nature of those ‘factors’ regulating
the pattern of inheritance was not clear. Over the next
hundred years, the nature of the putative genetic material
was investigated culminating in the realisation that
DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid – is the genetic material, at
least for the majority of organisms. In class XI you have
learnt that nucleic acids are polymers of nucleotides.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid
(RNA) are the two types of nucleic acids found in living
systems. DNA acts as the genetic material in most of the
organisms. RNA though it also acts as a genetic material
in some viruses, mostly functions as a messenger. RNA
has additional roles as well. It functions as adapter,
structural, and in some cases as a catalytic molecule. In
Class XI you have already learnt the structures of
nucleotides and the way these monomer units are linked
to form nucleic acid polymers. In this chapter we are going
to discuss the structure of DNA, its replication, the process
of making RNA from DNA (transcription), the genetic code
that determines the sequences of amino acids in proteins,
the process of protein synthesis (translation) and
elementary basis of their regulation. The determination
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 2


CHAPTER 5
MOLECULAR BASIS OF
INHERITANCE
5.1 The DNA
5.2 The Search for Genetic
Material
5.3 RNA World
5.4 Replication
5.5 Transcription
5.6 Genetic Code
5.7 Translation
5.8 Regulation of Gene
Expression
5.9 Human Genome Project
5.10 DNA Fingerprinting
In the previous chapter, you have learnt the inheritance
patterns and the genetic basis of such patterns. At the
time of Mendel, the nature of those ‘factors’ regulating
the pattern of inheritance was not clear. Over the next
hundred years, the nature of the putative genetic material
was investigated culminating in the realisation that
DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid – is the genetic material, at
least for the majority of organisms. In class XI you have
learnt that nucleic acids are polymers of nucleotides.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid
(RNA) are the two types of nucleic acids found in living
systems. DNA acts as the genetic material in most of the
organisms. RNA though it also acts as a genetic material
in some viruses, mostly functions as a messenger. RNA
has additional roles as well. It functions as adapter,
structural, and in some cases as a catalytic molecule. In
Class XI you have already learnt the structures of
nucleotides and the way these monomer units are linked
to form nucleic acid polymers. In this chapter we are going
to discuss the structure of DNA, its replication, the process
of making RNA from DNA (transcription), the genetic code
that determines the sequences of amino acids in proteins,
the process of protein synthesis (translation) and
elementary basis of their regulation. The determination
Rationalised 2023-24
80
BIOLOGY
of complete nucleotide sequence of human genome during last decade
has set in a new era of genomics. In the last section, the essentials of
human genome sequencing and its consequences will also be discussed.
Let us begin our discussion by first understanding the structure of
the most interesting molecule in the living system, that is, the DNA. In
subsequent sections, we will understand that why it is the most abundant
genetic material, and what its relationship is with RNA.
5.1 THE DNA
DNA is a long polymer of deoxyribonucleotides.  The length of DNA is
usually defined as number of nucleotides (or a pair of nucleotide referred
to as base pairs) present in it.  This also is the characteristic of an organism.
For example, a bacteriophage known as f f f f f×174 has 5386 nucleotides,
Bacteriophage lambda has 48502 base pairs (bp), Escherichia coli  has
4.6 × 10
6
 bp, and haploid content of human DNA is 3.3 × 10
9
 bp. Let us
discuss the structure of such a long polymer.
5.1.1 Structure of Polynucleotide Chain
Let us recapitulate the chemical structure of a polynucleotide chain (DNA
or RNA). A nucleotide has three components – a nitrogenous base, a
pentose sugar (ribose in case of RNA, and deoxyribose for DNA), and a
phosphate group. There are two types of nitrogenous bases – Purines
(Adenine and Guanine), and Pyrimidines (Cytosine, Uracil and Thymine).
Cytosine is common for both DNA and RNA and Thymine is present in
DNA. Uracil is  present in RNA at the place of Thymine. A nitrogenous
base is linked to the OH of 1
'
C pentose sugar through a N-glycosidic
linkage to form a nucleoside, such as adenosine or deoxyadenosine,
guanosine or deoxyguanosine, cytidine or deoxycytidine and uridine or
deoxythymidine.  When a phosphate group is linked to OH of 5
'
C  of a
nucleoside through phosphoester linkage, a corresponding nucleotide
(or deoxynucleotide depending upon the type of sugar present) is formed.
Two nucleotides are linked through 3
'
-5
'
 phosphodiester linkage to form
a dinucleotide.  More nucleotides can be joined in such a manner to form
a polynucleotide chain. A polymer thus formed has at one end a free
Figure 5.1 A Polynucleotide chain
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 3


CHAPTER 5
MOLECULAR BASIS OF
INHERITANCE
5.1 The DNA
5.2 The Search for Genetic
Material
5.3 RNA World
5.4 Replication
5.5 Transcription
5.6 Genetic Code
5.7 Translation
5.8 Regulation of Gene
Expression
5.9 Human Genome Project
5.10 DNA Fingerprinting
In the previous chapter, you have learnt the inheritance
patterns and the genetic basis of such patterns. At the
time of Mendel, the nature of those ‘factors’ regulating
the pattern of inheritance was not clear. Over the next
hundred years, the nature of the putative genetic material
was investigated culminating in the realisation that
DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid – is the genetic material, at
least for the majority of organisms. In class XI you have
learnt that nucleic acids are polymers of nucleotides.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid
(RNA) are the two types of nucleic acids found in living
systems. DNA acts as the genetic material in most of the
organisms. RNA though it also acts as a genetic material
in some viruses, mostly functions as a messenger. RNA
has additional roles as well. It functions as adapter,
structural, and in some cases as a catalytic molecule. In
Class XI you have already learnt the structures of
nucleotides and the way these monomer units are linked
to form nucleic acid polymers. In this chapter we are going
to discuss the structure of DNA, its replication, the process
of making RNA from DNA (transcription), the genetic code
that determines the sequences of amino acids in proteins,
the process of protein synthesis (translation) and
elementary basis of their regulation. The determination
Rationalised 2023-24
80
BIOLOGY
of complete nucleotide sequence of human genome during last decade
has set in a new era of genomics. In the last section, the essentials of
human genome sequencing and its consequences will also be discussed.
Let us begin our discussion by first understanding the structure of
the most interesting molecule in the living system, that is, the DNA. In
subsequent sections, we will understand that why it is the most abundant
genetic material, and what its relationship is with RNA.
5.1 THE DNA
DNA is a long polymer of deoxyribonucleotides.  The length of DNA is
usually defined as number of nucleotides (or a pair of nucleotide referred
to as base pairs) present in it.  This also is the characteristic of an organism.
For example, a bacteriophage known as f f f f f×174 has 5386 nucleotides,
Bacteriophage lambda has 48502 base pairs (bp), Escherichia coli  has
4.6 × 10
6
 bp, and haploid content of human DNA is 3.3 × 10
9
 bp. Let us
discuss the structure of such a long polymer.
5.1.1 Structure of Polynucleotide Chain
Let us recapitulate the chemical structure of a polynucleotide chain (DNA
or RNA). A nucleotide has three components – a nitrogenous base, a
pentose sugar (ribose in case of RNA, and deoxyribose for DNA), and a
phosphate group. There are two types of nitrogenous bases – Purines
(Adenine and Guanine), and Pyrimidines (Cytosine, Uracil and Thymine).
Cytosine is common for both DNA and RNA and Thymine is present in
DNA. Uracil is  present in RNA at the place of Thymine. A nitrogenous
base is linked to the OH of 1
'
C pentose sugar through a N-glycosidic
linkage to form a nucleoside, such as adenosine or deoxyadenosine,
guanosine or deoxyguanosine, cytidine or deoxycytidine and uridine or
deoxythymidine.  When a phosphate group is linked to OH of 5
'
C  of a
nucleoside through phosphoester linkage, a corresponding nucleotide
(or deoxynucleotide depending upon the type of sugar present) is formed.
Two nucleotides are linked through 3
'
-5
'
 phosphodiester linkage to form
a dinucleotide.  More nucleotides can be joined in such a manner to form
a polynucleotide chain. A polymer thus formed has at one end a free
Figure 5.1 A Polynucleotide chain
Rationalised 2023-24
81
MOLECULAR BASIS OF INHERITANCE
phosphate moiety at 5
'
-end of sugar, which is referred to as 5’-end of
polynucleotide chain. Similarly, at the other end of the polymer the sugar
has a free OH of 3
'
C  group which is referred to as 3' -end of the
polynucleotide chain.  The backbone of a polynucleotide chain is formed
due to sugar and phosphates. The nitrogenous bases linked to sugar
moiety project from the backbone (Figure 5.1).
In RNA, every nucleotide residue has an additional –OH group present
at 2
'
-position in the ribose. Also, in RNA the uracil is found at the place of
thymine (5-methyl uracil, another chemical name for thymine).
DNA  as an acidic substance present in nucleus was first identified by
Friedrich Meischer in 1869. He named it as ‘Nuclein’. However, due to
technical limitation in isolating such a long polymer intact, the elucidation
of structure of DNA remained elusive for a very long period of time.  It was
only in 1953 that James Watson and Francis Crick, based on the X-ray
diffraction data produced by Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin,
proposed a very simple but famous Double Helix model for the structure
of DNA.  One of the hallmarks of their proposition was base pairing between
the two strands of polynucleotide chains.  However, this proposition was
also based on the observation of Erwin Chargaff that for a double stranded
DNA, the ratios between Adenine and Thymine and Guanine and Cytosine
are constant and equals one.
The base pairing confers a very unique property to the polynucleotide
chains. They are said to be complementary to each other, and therefore if
the sequence of bases in one strand is known then the sequence in other
strand can be predicted. Also, if each strand from a DNA (let us call it as a
parental DNA) acts as a template for synthesis of a new strand, the two
double stranded DNA (let us call them as daughter DNA) thus, produced
would be identical to the parental DNA molecule. Because of this, the genetic
implications of the structure of DNA became very clear.
The salient features of the Double-helix structure of DNA are as follows:
(i) It is made of two polynucleotide chains, where the backbone is
constituted by sugar-phosphate, and the bases project inside.
(ii) The two chains have anti-parallel polarity. It means, if one
chain has the polarity 5
'
à3
'
, the other has 3
'
à5
'
.
(iii) The bases in two strands are paired through hydrogen bond
(H-bonds) forming base pairs (bp). Adenine forms two hydrogen
bonds with Thymine from opposite strand and vice-versa.
Similarly, Guanine is bonded with Cytosine with three H-bonds.
As a result, always a purine comes opposite to a pyrimidine. This
generates approximately uniform distance between the two
strands of the helix (Figure 5.2).
(iv) The two chains are coiled in a right-handed fashion. The pitch
of the helix is 3.4 nm (a nanometre is one billionth of a
metre, that is 10
-9
 m) and there are roughly 10 bp in each
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 4


CHAPTER 5
MOLECULAR BASIS OF
INHERITANCE
5.1 The DNA
5.2 The Search for Genetic
Material
5.3 RNA World
5.4 Replication
5.5 Transcription
5.6 Genetic Code
5.7 Translation
5.8 Regulation of Gene
Expression
5.9 Human Genome Project
5.10 DNA Fingerprinting
In the previous chapter, you have learnt the inheritance
patterns and the genetic basis of such patterns. At the
time of Mendel, the nature of those ‘factors’ regulating
the pattern of inheritance was not clear. Over the next
hundred years, the nature of the putative genetic material
was investigated culminating in the realisation that
DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid – is the genetic material, at
least for the majority of organisms. In class XI you have
learnt that nucleic acids are polymers of nucleotides.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid
(RNA) are the two types of nucleic acids found in living
systems. DNA acts as the genetic material in most of the
organisms. RNA though it also acts as a genetic material
in some viruses, mostly functions as a messenger. RNA
has additional roles as well. It functions as adapter,
structural, and in some cases as a catalytic molecule. In
Class XI you have already learnt the structures of
nucleotides and the way these monomer units are linked
to form nucleic acid polymers. In this chapter we are going
to discuss the structure of DNA, its replication, the process
of making RNA from DNA (transcription), the genetic code
that determines the sequences of amino acids in proteins,
the process of protein synthesis (translation) and
elementary basis of their regulation. The determination
Rationalised 2023-24
80
BIOLOGY
of complete nucleotide sequence of human genome during last decade
has set in a new era of genomics. In the last section, the essentials of
human genome sequencing and its consequences will also be discussed.
Let us begin our discussion by first understanding the structure of
the most interesting molecule in the living system, that is, the DNA. In
subsequent sections, we will understand that why it is the most abundant
genetic material, and what its relationship is with RNA.
5.1 THE DNA
DNA is a long polymer of deoxyribonucleotides.  The length of DNA is
usually defined as number of nucleotides (or a pair of nucleotide referred
to as base pairs) present in it.  This also is the characteristic of an organism.
For example, a bacteriophage known as f f f f f×174 has 5386 nucleotides,
Bacteriophage lambda has 48502 base pairs (bp), Escherichia coli  has
4.6 × 10
6
 bp, and haploid content of human DNA is 3.3 × 10
9
 bp. Let us
discuss the structure of such a long polymer.
5.1.1 Structure of Polynucleotide Chain
Let us recapitulate the chemical structure of a polynucleotide chain (DNA
or RNA). A nucleotide has three components – a nitrogenous base, a
pentose sugar (ribose in case of RNA, and deoxyribose for DNA), and a
phosphate group. There are two types of nitrogenous bases – Purines
(Adenine and Guanine), and Pyrimidines (Cytosine, Uracil and Thymine).
Cytosine is common for both DNA and RNA and Thymine is present in
DNA. Uracil is  present in RNA at the place of Thymine. A nitrogenous
base is linked to the OH of 1
'
C pentose sugar through a N-glycosidic
linkage to form a nucleoside, such as adenosine or deoxyadenosine,
guanosine or deoxyguanosine, cytidine or deoxycytidine and uridine or
deoxythymidine.  When a phosphate group is linked to OH of 5
'
C  of a
nucleoside through phosphoester linkage, a corresponding nucleotide
(or deoxynucleotide depending upon the type of sugar present) is formed.
Two nucleotides are linked through 3
'
-5
'
 phosphodiester linkage to form
a dinucleotide.  More nucleotides can be joined in such a manner to form
a polynucleotide chain. A polymer thus formed has at one end a free
Figure 5.1 A Polynucleotide chain
Rationalised 2023-24
81
MOLECULAR BASIS OF INHERITANCE
phosphate moiety at 5
'
-end of sugar, which is referred to as 5’-end of
polynucleotide chain. Similarly, at the other end of the polymer the sugar
has a free OH of 3
'
C  group which is referred to as 3' -end of the
polynucleotide chain.  The backbone of a polynucleotide chain is formed
due to sugar and phosphates. The nitrogenous bases linked to sugar
moiety project from the backbone (Figure 5.1).
In RNA, every nucleotide residue has an additional –OH group present
at 2
'
-position in the ribose. Also, in RNA the uracil is found at the place of
thymine (5-methyl uracil, another chemical name for thymine).
DNA  as an acidic substance present in nucleus was first identified by
Friedrich Meischer in 1869. He named it as ‘Nuclein’. However, due to
technical limitation in isolating such a long polymer intact, the elucidation
of structure of DNA remained elusive for a very long period of time.  It was
only in 1953 that James Watson and Francis Crick, based on the X-ray
diffraction data produced by Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin,
proposed a very simple but famous Double Helix model for the structure
of DNA.  One of the hallmarks of their proposition was base pairing between
the two strands of polynucleotide chains.  However, this proposition was
also based on the observation of Erwin Chargaff that for a double stranded
DNA, the ratios between Adenine and Thymine and Guanine and Cytosine
are constant and equals one.
The base pairing confers a very unique property to the polynucleotide
chains. They are said to be complementary to each other, and therefore if
the sequence of bases in one strand is known then the sequence in other
strand can be predicted. Also, if each strand from a DNA (let us call it as a
parental DNA) acts as a template for synthesis of a new strand, the two
double stranded DNA (let us call them as daughter DNA) thus, produced
would be identical to the parental DNA molecule. Because of this, the genetic
implications of the structure of DNA became very clear.
The salient features of the Double-helix structure of DNA are as follows:
(i) It is made of two polynucleotide chains, where the backbone is
constituted by sugar-phosphate, and the bases project inside.
(ii) The two chains have anti-parallel polarity. It means, if one
chain has the polarity 5
'
à3
'
, the other has 3
'
à5
'
.
(iii) The bases in two strands are paired through hydrogen bond
(H-bonds) forming base pairs (bp). Adenine forms two hydrogen
bonds with Thymine from opposite strand and vice-versa.
Similarly, Guanine is bonded with Cytosine with three H-bonds.
As a result, always a purine comes opposite to a pyrimidine. This
generates approximately uniform distance between the two
strands of the helix (Figure 5.2).
(iv) The two chains are coiled in a right-handed fashion. The pitch
of the helix is 3.4 nm (a nanometre is one billionth of a
metre, that is 10
-9
 m) and there are roughly 10 bp in each
Rationalised 2023-24
82
BIOLOGY
Figure 5.2 Double stranded polynucleotide chain
 Figure 5.3 DNA double helix
turn. Consequently, the distance
between a bp in a helix is
approximately 0.34 nm.
(v) The plane of one base pair stacks
over the other in double helix. This,
in addition to H-bonds, confers
stability of the helical structure
(Figure 5.3).
 Compare the structure of purines and
pyrimidines. Can you find out why the
distance between two polynucleotide
chains in DNA remains almost constant?
The proposition of a double helix
structure for DNA and its simplicity in
explaining the genetic implication became
revolutionary. Very soon, Francis Crick
proposed the Central dogma in molecular
biology, which states that the genetic
information flows from DNAàRNAàProtein.
Central dogma
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 5


CHAPTER 5
MOLECULAR BASIS OF
INHERITANCE
5.1 The DNA
5.2 The Search for Genetic
Material
5.3 RNA World
5.4 Replication
5.5 Transcription
5.6 Genetic Code
5.7 Translation
5.8 Regulation of Gene
Expression
5.9 Human Genome Project
5.10 DNA Fingerprinting
In the previous chapter, you have learnt the inheritance
patterns and the genetic basis of such patterns. At the
time of Mendel, the nature of those ‘factors’ regulating
the pattern of inheritance was not clear. Over the next
hundred years, the nature of the putative genetic material
was investigated culminating in the realisation that
DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid – is the genetic material, at
least for the majority of organisms. In class XI you have
learnt that nucleic acids are polymers of nucleotides.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid
(RNA) are the two types of nucleic acids found in living
systems. DNA acts as the genetic material in most of the
organisms. RNA though it also acts as a genetic material
in some viruses, mostly functions as a messenger. RNA
has additional roles as well. It functions as adapter,
structural, and in some cases as a catalytic molecule. In
Class XI you have already learnt the structures of
nucleotides and the way these monomer units are linked
to form nucleic acid polymers. In this chapter we are going
to discuss the structure of DNA, its replication, the process
of making RNA from DNA (transcription), the genetic code
that determines the sequences of amino acids in proteins,
the process of protein synthesis (translation) and
elementary basis of their regulation. The determination
Rationalised 2023-24
80
BIOLOGY
of complete nucleotide sequence of human genome during last decade
has set in a new era of genomics. In the last section, the essentials of
human genome sequencing and its consequences will also be discussed.
Let us begin our discussion by first understanding the structure of
the most interesting molecule in the living system, that is, the DNA. In
subsequent sections, we will understand that why it is the most abundant
genetic material, and what its relationship is with RNA.
5.1 THE DNA
DNA is a long polymer of deoxyribonucleotides.  The length of DNA is
usually defined as number of nucleotides (or a pair of nucleotide referred
to as base pairs) present in it.  This also is the characteristic of an organism.
For example, a bacteriophage known as f f f f f×174 has 5386 nucleotides,
Bacteriophage lambda has 48502 base pairs (bp), Escherichia coli  has
4.6 × 10
6
 bp, and haploid content of human DNA is 3.3 × 10
9
 bp. Let us
discuss the structure of such a long polymer.
5.1.1 Structure of Polynucleotide Chain
Let us recapitulate the chemical structure of a polynucleotide chain (DNA
or RNA). A nucleotide has three components – a nitrogenous base, a
pentose sugar (ribose in case of RNA, and deoxyribose for DNA), and a
phosphate group. There are two types of nitrogenous bases – Purines
(Adenine and Guanine), and Pyrimidines (Cytosine, Uracil and Thymine).
Cytosine is common for both DNA and RNA and Thymine is present in
DNA. Uracil is  present in RNA at the place of Thymine. A nitrogenous
base is linked to the OH of 1
'
C pentose sugar through a N-glycosidic
linkage to form a nucleoside, such as adenosine or deoxyadenosine,
guanosine or deoxyguanosine, cytidine or deoxycytidine and uridine or
deoxythymidine.  When a phosphate group is linked to OH of 5
'
C  of a
nucleoside through phosphoester linkage, a corresponding nucleotide
(or deoxynucleotide depending upon the type of sugar present) is formed.
Two nucleotides are linked through 3
'
-5
'
 phosphodiester linkage to form
a dinucleotide.  More nucleotides can be joined in such a manner to form
a polynucleotide chain. A polymer thus formed has at one end a free
Figure 5.1 A Polynucleotide chain
Rationalised 2023-24
81
MOLECULAR BASIS OF INHERITANCE
phosphate moiety at 5
'
-end of sugar, which is referred to as 5’-end of
polynucleotide chain. Similarly, at the other end of the polymer the sugar
has a free OH of 3
'
C  group which is referred to as 3' -end of the
polynucleotide chain.  The backbone of a polynucleotide chain is formed
due to sugar and phosphates. The nitrogenous bases linked to sugar
moiety project from the backbone (Figure 5.1).
In RNA, every nucleotide residue has an additional –OH group present
at 2
'
-position in the ribose. Also, in RNA the uracil is found at the place of
thymine (5-methyl uracil, another chemical name for thymine).
DNA  as an acidic substance present in nucleus was first identified by
Friedrich Meischer in 1869. He named it as ‘Nuclein’. However, due to
technical limitation in isolating such a long polymer intact, the elucidation
of structure of DNA remained elusive for a very long period of time.  It was
only in 1953 that James Watson and Francis Crick, based on the X-ray
diffraction data produced by Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin,
proposed a very simple but famous Double Helix model for the structure
of DNA.  One of the hallmarks of their proposition was base pairing between
the two strands of polynucleotide chains.  However, this proposition was
also based on the observation of Erwin Chargaff that for a double stranded
DNA, the ratios between Adenine and Thymine and Guanine and Cytosine
are constant and equals one.
The base pairing confers a very unique property to the polynucleotide
chains. They are said to be complementary to each other, and therefore if
the sequence of bases in one strand is known then the sequence in other
strand can be predicted. Also, if each strand from a DNA (let us call it as a
parental DNA) acts as a template for synthesis of a new strand, the two
double stranded DNA (let us call them as daughter DNA) thus, produced
would be identical to the parental DNA molecule. Because of this, the genetic
implications of the structure of DNA became very clear.
The salient features of the Double-helix structure of DNA are as follows:
(i) It is made of two polynucleotide chains, where the backbone is
constituted by sugar-phosphate, and the bases project inside.
(ii) The two chains have anti-parallel polarity. It means, if one
chain has the polarity 5
'
à3
'
, the other has 3
'
à5
'
.
(iii) The bases in two strands are paired through hydrogen bond
(H-bonds) forming base pairs (bp). Adenine forms two hydrogen
bonds with Thymine from opposite strand and vice-versa.
Similarly, Guanine is bonded with Cytosine with three H-bonds.
As a result, always a purine comes opposite to a pyrimidine. This
generates approximately uniform distance between the two
strands of the helix (Figure 5.2).
(iv) The two chains are coiled in a right-handed fashion. The pitch
of the helix is 3.4 nm (a nanometre is one billionth of a
metre, that is 10
-9
 m) and there are roughly 10 bp in each
Rationalised 2023-24
82
BIOLOGY
Figure 5.2 Double stranded polynucleotide chain
 Figure 5.3 DNA double helix
turn. Consequently, the distance
between a bp in a helix is
approximately 0.34 nm.
(v) The plane of one base pair stacks
over the other in double helix. This,
in addition to H-bonds, confers
stability of the helical structure
(Figure 5.3).
 Compare the structure of purines and
pyrimidines. Can you find out why the
distance between two polynucleotide
chains in DNA remains almost constant?
The proposition of a double helix
structure for DNA and its simplicity in
explaining the genetic implication became
revolutionary. Very soon, Francis Crick
proposed the Central dogma in molecular
biology, which states that the genetic
information flows from DNAàRNAàProtein.
Central dogma
Rationalised 2023-24
83
MOLECULAR BASIS OF INHERITANCE
Figure 5.4a Nucleosome
Figure 5.4b EM picture - ‘Beads-on-String’
In some viruses the flow of information is in reverse direction, that is,
from RNA to DNA. Can you suggest a simple name to the process?
5.1.2  Packaging of DNA Helix
Taken the distance between two consecutive base pairs
as 0.34 nm (0.34×10
–9
 m), if the length of DNA double
helix in a typical mammalian cell is calculated (simply
by multiplying the total number of bp with distance
between two consecutive bp, that is, 6.6 × 10
9 
bp ×
0.34 × 10
-9
m/bp), it comes out to be approximately
2.2 metres. A length that is far greater than the
dimension of a typical nucleus (approximately 10
–6
 m).
How is such a long polymer packaged in a cell?
If the length of E. coli DNA is 1.36 mm, can you
calculate the number of base pairs in E.coli?
In prokaryotes, such as, E. coli, though they do
not have a defined nucleus, the DNA is not scattered
throughout the cell.  DNA (being negatively charged)
is held with some proteins (that have positive
charges) in a region termed as ‘nucleoid’.  The DNA
in nucleoid is organised in large loops held by
proteins.
In eukaryotes, this organisation is much more
complex.  There is a set of positively charged, basic
proteins called histones.  A protein acquires charge
depending upon the abundance of amino acids
residues with charged side chains. Histones are rich
in the basic amino acid residues lysine and arginine.
Both the amino acid residues carry positive charges
in their side chains. Histones are organised to form
a unit of eight molecules called histone octamer.
The negatively charged DNA is wrapped around the positively charged
histone octamer to form a structure called nucleosome (Figure 5.4 a). A
typical nucleosome contains 200 bp of DNA helix.  Nucleosomes constitute
the repeating unit of a structure in nucleus called chromatin, thread-
like stained (coloured) bodies seen in nucleus. The nucleosomes in
chromatin are seen as ‘beads-on-string’ structure when viewed under
electron microscope (EM) (Figure 5.4 b).
Theoretically, how many such beads (nucleosomes) do you imagine
are present in a mammalian cell?
The beads-on-string structure in chromatin is packaged to form
chromatin fibers that are further coiled and condensed at metaphase stage
of cell division to form chromosomes. The packaging of chromatin at higher
level requires additional set of proteins that collectively are referred to as
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FAQs on NCERT Textbook: Molecular Basis of Inheritance - Biology Class 12 - NEET

1. What is the molecular basis of inheritance?
Ans. The molecular basis of inheritance refers to the mechanism that explains how genetic information is passed down from one generation to another. It involves the transmission of DNA from parent to offspring, which contains the genetic code responsible for the characteristics and traits of an organism.
2. What is the role of DNA in the molecular basis of inheritance?
Ans. DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) is the genetic material that carries the instructions for the development and functioning of all living organisms. It serves as the blueprint for the synthesis of proteins and other molecules essential for life. DNA replication and transcription are the critical processes that ensure the accurate transmission of genetic information during cell division and the production of new cells.
3. How does genetic variation occur in the molecular basis of inheritance?
Ans. Genetic variation occurs due to the natural process of mutations that alter the DNA sequence of an organism. These mutations can occur spontaneously or due to environmental factors such as radiation, chemicals, or other stressors. Genetic recombination during meiosis also plays a crucial role in generating genetic diversity by shuffling the genetic material from the parents into new combinations in the offspring.
4. What is the significance of the molecular basis of inheritance in medicine?
Ans. The molecular basis of inheritance has significant implications for medicine, as it allows for the identification of genetic disorders and the development of targeted therapies. Advances in molecular genetics have enabled the detection of disease-causing mutations, the screening of individuals for inherited conditions, and the development of personalized treatments based on an individual's genetic makeup.
5. How do epigenetic modifications affect the molecular basis of inheritance?
Ans. Epigenetic modifications are chemical changes to the DNA molecule that do not alter the underlying genetic code but can affect gene expression and cellular function. These modifications include DNA methylation, histone modification, and non-coding RNA molecules. Epigenetic changes can be heritable and can influence the development of diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders, and metabolic disorders. Understanding the molecular basis of epigenetic modifications can provide insights into disease mechanisms and possible therapeutic targets.
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