Discovering DNA: Friedrich Miescher and the early years of nucleic acid research. Human Genetics, 122(6), 565-581

Center for Brain Research, Medical University of Vienna, Spitalgasse 4, 1090, Vienna, Austria,
Human Genetics (Impact Factor: 4.82). 02/2008; 122(6):565-81. DOI: 10.1007/s00439-007-0433-0
Source: PubMed


In the winter of 1868/9 the young Swiss doctor Friedrich Miescher, working in the laboratory of Felix Hoppe-Seyler at the University of Tübingen, performed experiments on the chemical composition of leukocytes that lead to the discovery of DNA. In his experiments, Miescher noticed a precipitate of an unknown substance, which he characterised further. Its properties during the isolation procedure and its resistance to protease digestion indicated that the novel substance was not a protein or lipid. Analyses of its elementary composition revealed that, unlike proteins, it contained large amounts of phosphorous and, as Miescher confirmed later, lacked sulphur. Miescher recognised that he had discovered a novel molecule. Since he had isolated it from the cells' nuclei he named it nuclein, a name preserved in today's designation deoxyribonucleic acid. In subsequent work Miescher showed that nuclein was a characteristic component of all nuclei and hypothesised that it would prove to be inextricably linked to the function of this organelle. He suggested that its abundance in tissues might be related to their physiological status with increases in "nuclear substances" preceding cell division. Miescher even speculated that it might have a role in the transmission of hereditary traits, but subsequently rejected the idea. This article reviews the events and circumstances leading to Miescher's discovery of DNA and places them within their historic context. It also tries to elucidate why it was Miescher who discovered DNA and why his name is not universally associated with this molecule today.

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Available from: Ralf Dahm, Oct 14, 2015
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    • "In the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, the discovery of DNA by Friedrich Miescher in 1869 (Dahm 2008), the resolution of its chemical (Levene 1919) and structural (Watson and Crick 1953) characteristics, and the recognition of its role in inheritance (Avery et al. 1944; Hershey and Chase 1952) sounded the bell for the development of molecular DNA markers. Since then, methods to study directly the DNA of an organism have found their way into all fields of modern biology. "
    10/2015; 156(4). DOI:10.1007/s10336-015-1253-y
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    • "Natural genes principally encode proteins [1]. We previously proposed a novel artificial gene-based biocomputing model enabling digitally compressed imaging data to be stored in editable DNA molecules [6]. "
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    ABSTRACT: We previously proposed novel designs for artificial genes as media for storing digitally compressed image data, specifically for biocomputing by analogy to natural genes mainly used to encode proteins. A run-length encoding (RLE) rule had been applied in DNA-based image data processing, to form coding regions, and noncoding regions were created as space for designing biochemical editing. In the present study, we apply the RLE-based image-coding rule to creation of DNA-based animation. This article consisted of three parts: (i) a theoretical review of RLE-based image coding by DNA, (ii) a technical proposal for biochemical editing of DNA-coded images using the polymerase chain reaction, and (iii) a minimal demonstration of DNA-based animation using simple model images encoded on short DNA molecules.
    Journal of Advanced Computational Intelligence and Intelligent Informatics 01/2015; 19(1):5-10.
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    • "In the winter of 1868/69 DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) was first isolated by the Swiss doctor Friedrich Miescher who performed experiments on the chemical composition of leukocytes. Since he isolated a novel molecule from the cells`nuclei he named it nuclein [1]. Fifty years later, Phoebus Levene identified the base, sugar and phosphate nucleotide unit [2] and in 1924 Hammarsten reported that metal cations are needed in cells to help neutralize the negative charge of DNA [3] . "
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    ABSTRACT: In this review several types of interactions between metal ions and DNA are given, starting from basic binding to the use of metal complexes in cancer treatment and diagnostics. Metal cations help to neutralize the negative charge of DNA and thus enable the normal functions of DNA but many other interactions are also possible and are discussed in this paper. Various consequences of such interactions can be reversible (e. g. conformational changes) or irreversible (e. g. cleavage). It is known that some metal ions can also damage DNA which can provoke mutations and in some cases leads to cancer. It is clear that we know a lot about metal-DNA interactions but much more information is needed to understand the role of metal ions completely and to use this knowledge successfully.
    Current topics in medicinal chemistry 11/2011; 11(21):2661-87. DOI:10.2174/156802611798040787 · 3.40 Impact Factor
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