A substance that he called nuclein (now known as DNA) was isolated by 1869 by Friedrich Miescher, but it was only in the last half of the 20th cent. that that research revealed its significance as the material of which the gene is composed, and thus its function as the chemical bearer of hereditary characteristics. RNA was first made by laboratory synthesis in 1955. In 1965 the nucleotide sequence of tRNA was determined, and in 1967 the synthesis of biologically active DNA was achieved. The amount of RNA varies from cell to cell, but the amount of DNA is normally constant for all typical cells of a given species of plant or animal, no matter what the size or function of that cell. The amount doubles as the chromosomes replicate themselves before cell division takes place (see mitosis); in the ovum and sperm the amount is half that in the body cells (see meiosis).
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