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6: Mechanisms of Microbial Genetics

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    • 6.1: Using Microbiology to Discover the Secrets of Life
      DNA was discovered and characterized long before its role in heredity was understood. Microbiologists played significant roles in demonstrating that DNA is the hereditary information found within cells. In the 1850s and 1860s, Gregor Mendel experimented with true-breeding garden peas to demonstrate the heritability of specific observable traits. In 1869, Friedrich Miescher isolated and purified a compound rich in phosphorus from the nuclei of white blood cells; he named the compound nuclein.
    • 6.2: Structure and Replication of DNA
      Nucleic acids are composed of nucleotides, each of which contains a pentose sugar, a phosphate group, and a nitrogenous base. Deoxyribonucleotides within DNA contain deoxyribose as the pentose sugar. DNA contains the pyrimidines cytosine and thymine, and the purines adenine and guanine. Nucleotides are linked together by phosphodiester bonds between the 5ʹ phosphate group of one nucleotide and the 3ʹ hydroxyl group of another.
    • 6.3: Structure and Transcription of RNA
      Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is typically single stranded and contains ribose as its pentose sugar and the pyrimidine uracil instead of thymine. An RNA strand can undergo significant intramolecular base pairing to take on a three-dimensional structure. There are three main types of RNA, all involved in protein synthesis. Messenger RNA (mRNA) serves as the intermediary between DNA and the synthesis of protein products during translation.
    • 6.4: Protein Synthesis (Translation)
      The synthesis of proteins consumes more of a cell’s energy than any other metabolic process. In turn, proteins account for more mass than any other macromolecule of living organisms. They perform virtually every function of a cell, serving as both functional (e.g., enzymes) and structural elements. The process of translation, or protein synthesis, the second part of gene expression, involves the decoding by a ribosome of an mRNA message into a polypeptide product.
    • 6.5: Mutations
      A mutation is a heritable change in the DNA sequence of an organism. The resulting organism, called a mutant, may have a recognizable change in phenotype compared to the wild type, which is the phenotype most commonly observed in nature. A change in the DNA sequence is conferred to mRNA through transcription, and may lead to an altered amino acid sequence in a protein on translation.
    • 6.6: How Asexual Prokaryotes Achieve Genetic Diversity
      How then do organisms whose dominant reproductive mode is asexual create genetic diversity? In prokaryotes, horizontal gene transfer (HGT), the introduction of genetic material from one organism to another organism within the same generation, is an important way to introduce genetic diversity. HGT allows even distantly related species to share genes, influencing their phenotypes.
    • 6.7: Gene Regulation and Operon Theory
      Genomic DNA contains both structural genes, which encode products that serve as cellular structures or enzymes, and regulatory genes, which encode products that regulate gene expression. The expression of a gene is a highly regulated process. Whereas regulating gene expression in multicellular organisms allows for cellular differentiation, in single-celled organisms like prokaryotes, it ensures that a cell’s resources are not wasted making proteins that the cell does not need at that time.
    • Chapter 6 Exercises

    Thumbnail: DNA Double Helix. (Public Domain; Apers0n).

    6: Mechanisms of Microbial Genetics is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by OpenStax.

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