On this day April 25 in 1953, James D. Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin and their colleagues published the first article that described the double-helix DNA structure in the scientific journal Nature.

This short, one page article titled, “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” was the key to understanding the chemical basis for heredity that not only made modern day genetics and molecular biology possible, but also opened up new possibilities for treating diseases.

Why is the structure of DNA important?
It stores the blueprints of life!

The shape of DNA serves a functional purpose: the double-helix (also known as double-stranded) structure underlies the potential for DNA to store, replicate, and code hereditary information.

DNA consists of four nucleotide types: adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine, (C) , and guanine (G). Each strand of the double helix is a polymer of nucleotides covalently bonded through a sugar-phosphate backbone. The phosphate groups in the backbone give DNA a negative charge, which is exploited in analytical techniques such as gel electrophoresis. Complementary hydrogen bonding of A to T and C to G gives physical stability to the strands and ensures that the two strands contain duplicate information.

Upon the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2013, a milestone in modern molecular biology, the United States Congress proclaimed April 25th to be DNA Day. Initially just a one-time celebration, DNA Day has since been observed annually and recognized internationally.

You’ll never know where your “simple” discovery will lead you until you set off on the journey. As friends at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle said, “Remember, life’s boring without discovery!”

Here’s a video from Bozeman Science called, What is DNA? This video goes more in depth about the components of DNA and its functions.