a201-11f-08-MolecularGenetics

a201-11f-08-MolecularGenetics - Introduction to Biological...

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Introduction to Biological Anthropology: Notes 8 Beyond Mendel: Molecular genetics, cell division, and sex Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - Mendel’s model was completely abstract. - In his day, no one had ever seen a particle of inheritance - nor anything that resembled Mendel’s whole scheme of alleles randomly segregating into gametes, combining into offspring, and so on - But now we know a lot about the physical mechanisms behind the abstract model he proposed - today we will cover just enough about genetics to allow us to understand some processes that are important to how evolution works - Living things are complex structures of many different chemical compounds - mostly proteins - the functions of living things are essentially chemical processes, largely involving proteins - one of the main things that genes do is specify - what proteins are produced - in what places and times - in order to grow an embryo into a fetus into an adult - and operate all the chemical reactions that make it work throughout its life - So what is a protein? - proteins are a category of organic molecules - a protein molecule is composed of a chain of smaller units called amino acids - in the natural biological world, there are 20 different amino acids - (some others can be made artificially or in non-biological processes) - amino acids can form chains (proteins) in virtually any order, any combination, and any length - the longest currently known in living things are about 27,000 amino acids long - the sequence of amino acids in a protein is its primary structure - the chain of amino acids folds and sticks to itself in a complex shape - the shape is described by its secondary structure , tertiary structure , and quaternary structure , which we will not cover in detail - the shape is largely determined by the sequence of amino acids: the protein’s primary structure - because that affects how and where the chain can bend, stick to itself, and so on - a protein’s primary structure and shape largely determine its chemical properties - what reactions it will have with what specific other molecules - Proteins have several kinds of functions - some are structural proteins , which form the physical structure of the body, from cell walls, to bone, to hair, to fingernails, etc. - others are motor proteins , which cause physical movement in muscles, move other molecules or structures into, out of, or within cells, and so on
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Intro to Biological Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Molecular genetics p. 2 - others are enzymes , which cause specific chemical reactions to take place - the enzyme is not used up in this process; it is like a little machine that causes the reaction to happen as long as the raw materials for the reaction are present - so producing an enzyme in the right circumstances is like flipping a switch to cause a particular chemical reaction to happen - and other types with other functions: antibodies, signaling proteins, etc. -
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This note was uploaded on 03/02/2012 for the course ANTHRO 201.3 taught by Professor Owen during the Fall '11 term at Sonoma.

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a201-11f-08-MolecularGenetics - Introduction to Biological...

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