Antisense and sensibilities

Stephen R. Lasky Stephen_Lasky at
Tue Jan 9 09:15:17 EST 1996

In article <malexeyev-0501961604430001 at>,
malexeyev at (Mikhail Alexeyev) wrote:

> It has been suggested before that it is probably a good time to adopt the
> most logical of two concepts. I tend to agree. Like I mentioned before, I
> prefer Joanne Tornow's definition except I wouldn't call strain that is
> being copied to produce mRNA a "template strand". I would call it
> "antisense" strand for cosistency's sake. I also think that there is
> little justification behind calling that strand "coding" one. What is
> really being coded is protein (or more precisely, amino acids). Since DNA
> strand used for transcription does not code for protein, it should not be
> called "coding". 

One problem with "Template strand" is that during replication, both
strands are templates.  If we are going to set some intuitive standard for
naming strands, why introduce ambiguity into it by using a term that may
be perfectly all right for one process, but is also used in another

> > > If one needs to know which strand of DNA has sequence identical to RNA,
> > > there is no need for any operation:
> > > 
> > >  antisense DNA = antisense RNA
> > >  sense DNA     = sense RNA 
> > > 
> > I follow you but if the strand similar to RNA is going to become the sense 
> > strand, I think the simple statement that it is should be sufficient. The 
> > rest follows from the knowledge that transcription is anti-parallel.
> Exactly. That's the beuaty of it. I intentionally made my message 
> redundant (and probably annoying).

The problem of naming strands probably arose initially from the
anthropomorphization of the central dogma:  Harking back to the original
definitions (in which the DNA sense strand hybridized to the mRNA), if the
RNA pol "read" and transcribed that strand it made an mRNA that made sense
to the ribosomes when they went to translate it. I believe that this is
the opposite of  the description above (sense DNA = sense RNA (mRNA) which
seems to be in current usage.  But I think that our goal should be to get
away from using sense and anti-sense to describe strands in the DNA.

Why not define the strands based on the action that is taken on them:  the
transcribed strand (T-Strand) (for the anti-parallel complementary strand
to the mRNA), and the non-transcirbed stand (N-Strand) for the strand with
the same sequence as the mRNA? The name of the gene that is transcribed
can be added if it has not already been defined (as suggested by Dr.
Moldwin).   mRNA should be mRNA or sense-RNA, and anti-Sense RNA should be
the anti-parallel complement to the message.  I don't see any ambiguity in
this system.


Stephen R. Lasky Ph.D.   Brown U/Roger Williams Medical Center,  Providence, RI.   
Phone: 401-456-5672     Fax: 401-456-6569     e:mail: Stephen_Lasky at
America may be unique in being a country which has leapt from barbarism to decadence without touching civilization.  John O'Hara.

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