The structures of nucleic acids are especially interesting and important because they provide specificity and enable nucleic acids to carry out many vital functions. Recently, work in our laboratories has led to the first determination of the chemical structure of a nucleic acid.1-4 A brief summary of the work is given in this paper.
The structure that was determined was that of an alanine transfer ribonucleic acid (RNA). Transfer RNAs function as specific carriers of activated amino acids, and during protein synthesis they interact with other cellular components (ribosomes and messenger RNA) to determine the structure of the protein that is being synthesized. (For a review of protein synthesis, see Moldave.5)
In comparison with other nucleic acids, transfer RNAs are relatively small molecules. It seemed possible, therefore, some seven years ago, when our work was undertaken, that transfer RNAs might be amenable to detailed structural analysis.
Holley RW. Structure of an Alanine Transfer Ribonucleic Acid. JAMA. 1965;194(8):868–871. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090210032009
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