DNA Replication: An Engineering Marvel

Recently I have been reviewing some literature on the elegant molecular mechanisms by which DNA is replicated. As an undergraduate biology student, I recall being struck by their sheer complexity, sophistication, and intrinsic beauty. As I read about such a carefully orchestrated process, involving so many specific enzymes and protein complexes, and its extraordinary accuracy, it was almost as though the word “design” jumped off the pages of my textbook and slapped me in the face. The rate of DNA replication has been measured as a whopping 749 nucleotides per second (McCarthy et al., 1976) and the error rate for accurate polymerases is believed to be in the range of 10^-7 and 10^-8, based on studies of E. coli and bacteriophage DNA replication (Schaaper, 1993).

I want to provide here a brief overview of the central processes involved in DNA replication. In subsequent articles, I will examine the individual components in more detail.

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