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The multiple personalities of Watson and Crick strands

DOI: 10.1186/1745-6150-6-7

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The Saccharomyces Genome Database defines the Watson strand as the strand which has its 5'-end at the short-arm telomere and the Crick strand as its complement. The Watson strand is always used as the reference strand in their database. Using this as the basis of our standard, we recommend that Watson and Crick strand terminology only be used in the context of genomics. When possible, the centromere or other genomic feature should be used as a reference point, dividing the chromosome into two arms of unequal lengths. Under our proposal, the Watson strand is standardized as the strand whose 5'-end is on the short arm of the chromosome, and the Crick strand as the one whose 5'-end is on the long arm. Furthermore, the Watson strand should be retained as the reference (plus) strand in a genomic database. This usage not only makes the determination of Watson and Crick unambiguous, but also allows unambiguous selection of reference stands for genomics.This article was reviewed by John M. Logsdon, Igor B. Rogozin (nominated by Andrey Rzhetsky), and William Martin.In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick published the structure of DNA [1], for which they were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1962. They determined that DNA consists of two antiparallel, complementary strands twisted around each other to form a right-handed double helix held in place by interactions between complementary base pairs: adenine (A) with thymine (T) and guanine (G) with cytosine (C). From this structure, it was straightforwardly evident how the genetic information was copied and maintained [2].As a couple, Watson and Crick were immediately hyphenated and eponymized, resulting in terms such as "Watson-Crick model" [3], "Watson-Crick structure" [4], "Watson-Crick helix" [5], "Watson-Crick duplex" [6], "Watson-Crick hydrogen bond" [7], "Watson-Crick bridge" [8], "Watson-Crick complementarity" [5], as well as "Watson-Crick base pair" [9] and its antonym "non-Watson-Crick base pair" [10]. These terms are unequiv

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