Antisense and sensibilities

Paul N Hengen pnh at
Thu Jan 4 11:47:31 EST 1996

Robert Horton (horton at wrote:

: This sense-antisense discussion would make a useful addition to the FAQ.
: Whadda ya think, Paul?
: -Bob Horton

Well, maybe it might be better reviewed in TIBS as discussion, rather than
me taking sides. I had an e-mail conversation with Steve Laskey over this
and he asked which is sense and which is antisense when referring to DNA.

I replied like this:

| I had a look at G. Stent's older books which described in some detail how
| tRNA was discovered first, before the structure of mRNA and DNA. During
| that time (1950's) tRNA was thought to have "anti-codons" and it was not
| known where the codons were because they didn't know about mRNA. It all then
| had to be described in terms related to tRNA, and I think it got very hairy
| when the intermediary (mRNA) was discovered. I could be wrong, but that's
| my impression. Then, start throwing in "anti-" with "sense" on DNA because of
| "nonsense" triplet codons on mRNA and I get a severe headache.

| I don't like the terms sense and anti-sense when describing DNA, so I
| avoid that. I feel both terms should be thrown out. How about the R
| strand which is the same as mRNA except for U's, and the C strand for
| the one complementary to that?  Hmmm...too simple?

The bottom line...I far as I know, there are only 2 strands of DNA ;-) If you
are talking about coding, it must be with respect to production of mRNA. One
DNA strand is the same as the mRNA except for the U's. The other isn't. Any
comments about this? Off base or not?

* Paul N. Hengen, Ph.D.                           /--------------------------/*
* National Cancer Institute                       |Internet: pnh at |*
* Laboratory of Mathematical Biology              |   Phone: (301) 846-5581  |*
* Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center|     FAX: (301) 846-5598  |*
* Frederick, Maryland 21702-1201 USA              /--------------------------/*
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