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Molecular Biology

Discover the fascinating world of Molecular Biology, unraveling the secrets behind life's building blocks and the potential it holds for groundbreaking scientific advancements.

USMLE Guide: Molecular Biology


This USMLE guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of molecular biology, a field that explores the mechanisms and processes occurring at the molecular level within cells. This article will cover essential concepts, techniques, and applications of molecular biology, which are crucial for medical professionals preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

Table of Contents

  1. Central Dogma of Molecular Biology
  2. DNA Replication
  3. Transcription
  4. Translation
  5. Genetic Mutations
  6. PCR - Polymerase Chain Reaction
  7. DNA Sequencing
  8. Recombinant DNA Technology
  9. Gene Expression
  10. Applications of Molecular Biology in Medicine

Central Dogma of Molecular Biology

The central dogma of molecular biology describes the flow of genetic information within a biological system. It consists of three major steps:

  1. DNA Replication: The process of copying DNA to produce an identical DNA molecule.
  2. Transcription: The synthesis of RNA molecules using DNA as a template.
  3. Translation: The conversion of RNA into proteins, involving the ribosomes and transfer RNA (tRNA).

DNA Replication

DNA replication is a highly precise process that ensures the faithful transmission of genetic information during cell division. Key points to remember include:

  • DNA replication occurs during the S phase of the cell cycle.
  • Semiconservative replication means that each new DNA molecule consists of one original strand and one newly synthesized strand.
  • DNA replication requires DNA polymerase, primase, helicase, ligase, and other enzymes.
  • Replication occurs in the 5' to 3' direction on the leading strand and the 3' to 5' direction on the lagging strand (discontinuous synthesis).


Transcription is the process by which RNA molecules are synthesized using DNA as a template. Important aspects of transcription include:

  • rna polymerase catalyzes the synthesis of RNA from a DNA template.
  • Transcription starts at the promoter region and ends at the terminator region.
  • The three main types of RNA produced are messenger RNA (mRNA), transfer RNA (tRNA), and ribosomal RNA (rRNA).


Translation refers to the process of protein synthesis, where the information encoded in mRNA is converted into an amino acid sequence. Key points about translation include:

  • Translation occurs in the ribosomes, using transfer RNA (tRNA) and ribosomal RNA (rRNA).
  • The start codon (AUG) initiates translation, and stop codons (UAA, UAG, UGA) terminate it.
  • tRNA carries amino acids to the ribosome, where they are incorporated into the growing polypeptide chain.

Genetic Mutations

Genetic mutations are alterations in the DNA sequence, which can have significant consequences. Understanding mutations is crucial for diagnosing and treating genetic disorders. Important types of mutations include:

  • Point mutations: Single base pair substitutions, including silent, missense, and nonsense mutations.
  • Frameshift mutations: Insertions or deletions of nucleotides that alter the reading frame.
  • Chromosomal mutations: Large-scale changes involving chromosome structure, such as deletions, duplications, inversions, and translocations.

PCR - Polymerase Chain Reaction

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a technique used to amplify specific DNA sequences. Key features of PCR include:

  • PCR requires a DNA template, primers, DNA polymerase, and nucleotides.
  • The process involves repeated cycles of denaturation, annealing, and extension.
  • PCR is widely used in research, diagnostics, forensic science, and genetic testing.

DNA Sequencing

DNA sequencing is the process of determining the exact order of nucleotides in a DNA molecule. Important points about DNA sequencing include:

  • Sanger sequencing was the first widely used method, involving chain termination and gel electrophoresis.
  • Next-generation sequencing (NGS) techniques enable high-throughput sequencing with increased speed and reduced cost.
  • DNA sequencing has revolutionized genomics, personalized medicine, and our understanding of genetic diseases.

Recombinant DNA Technology

Recombinant DNA technology involves the manipulation of DNA to create new combinations of genetic material. Key aspects of recombinant DNA technology include:

  • Restriction enzymes are used to cut DNA at specific sequences.
  • DNA ligase is used to join DNA fragments.
  • Recomb
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