symposium - The Concept of Information in Molecular Biology...

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The Concept of Information in Molecular Biology Today I would like to explore the concept of information as it relates to molecular biology. The relevance of information in this domain is twofold; first there is the mathematical construct of information as explored by Shannon, and second there is the more intuitive notion of information as the meaning encoded within Shannon’s mathematical construct. After a brief introduction to Shannon’s information theory and how it relates to molecular biology, I will argue that it is the meaning aspect of information that should be of most concern to bioinformaticians and molecular biologists now. There is a shift in models going on in molecular biology from a concentration on data management (which entails the ability to characterize what nucleotides make up the sequence of a particular genome) to knowledge management (which entails the ability to interpret what function those nucleotides are playing in the life of the organism). We, as information scientists, need to bring our expertise in areas like metadata, data integration, and data visualization to bear on this knowledge aspect of information in molecular biology. Molecular Biology First, let me give a brief overview of the domain of molecular biology. Molecular biology is a subfield of biology that grew out of the fields of biochemistry, which is concerned with the chemical properties of living cells, and genetics, which is concerned with the evolutionary history of organisms and the relationships between them. The molecules of concern to molecular biology are those biochemical structures that are directly involved in encoding the information necessary for an organism to sustain its own life as well as to pass information to the next generation through the reproductive process. So these structures include DNA and RNA , each of which are strands of nucleotides ; these nucleotides cluster into groups of three to form amino acids , and these amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. What is known as the “central dogma” in molecular biology is the idea that the genome is the repository or template for all of the genetic information that is required both for organisms to perpetuate their own life and for them to pass this information on to the next generation through the reproductive process. The central dogma initially stated that information in the organism flows from DNA to mRNA to protein in a unidirectional manner, but with the discovery of retroviruses and other organisms that transcribe genetic information from RNA to DNA and then back to mRNA to proteins, the unidirectionality rule has had to be relaxed. The sequence hypothesis of molecular biology states that the sequences of
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This note was uploaded on 12/01/2009 for the course BIO BIO130 taught by Professor Goralka during the Spring '09 term at Diablo Valley College.

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symposium - The Concept of Information in Molecular Biology...

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