4.5 Endocrine disruptors

Then he was a she…

(Lou Reed, American rock singer)

In 1996, a book called Our Stolen Future was published, bringing to public attention a debate that had been simmering among biologists for some time. Written by Theo Colborn and two colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), this book presented the hypothesis that certain industrial chemicals, commonly found as environmental pol
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3.2 The impact of climate change on global freshwater resources

The availability of freshwater will be significantly altered in a future world affected by climate change (Houghton, 2004). In some regions, water availability will decrease; in others it will increase. Precise predictions about the extent and exact location of such changes cannot be made because they are based on climate models, the accuracy of which is uncertain. However, there is wide agreement that probable changes will include:

  • More rain in north
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3.6.1 Radioactivity and bugs!

Many natural processes involve repeated doublings or halving at regular intervals. You may have come across this already in your work, in the context of bacterial growth or radioactivity. In this section, we are going to look in more detail at bacterial growth and radioactivity and we will be using graphs to examine how the numbers of bacteria or numbers of radioactive atoms change over time.


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3.2.2 Choice of scale

It's important to choose a scale that covers the range of values you have recorded for that particular axis. If the scale is too big, then all of your measurements will be bunched up at one end of the graph, making it difficult to read. It is also very important to keep the scale consistent all along the axis, i.e. don't suddenly change the spacing between the units of measurement on an axis.


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7 Unit questions

Now you have completed this unit, try the following questions to test your understanding of this material.

Question 19

5.3 Metabolism

Molecules diffuse more slowly at low temperature: measurements of the rates of diffusion of small molecules such as lactic acid, Ca2+ and analogues of glucose and ATP through fish muscles produced Q10 values of 1.75–2.04 between 5 and 25° C. Nearly all enzyme reactions are slower at low temperatures (although sometimes whole pathways can be faster if an inhibitor is more inhibited by low temperature than are the catalysts). So, in the absence of temperature compensat
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5.2.1 Blood pigments

The solubility of oxygen (and of many other gases) in water increases with decreasing temperature: at 0° C, seawater holds 1.6 times as much oxygen when saturated as at 20° C. This fact, and continual disturbance by frequent storms, mean that the surface waters of polar oceans are very well oxygenated. A family of 17 species of nototheniid fish, the Channichthyidae, have no erythrocytes, no haemoglobin and almost no myoglobin at all stages of the life cycle (Section 1.5).

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4.3 Humans in polar regions

Humans evolved in tropical Africa and gradually colonized colder climates during the Pleistocene ice ages. There have been permanent populations in the Arctic for several thousand years, mostly Inuit (Eskimos) in what are now Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and several groups in northern Europe and Russia, such as the Saami (Lapp) in Scandinavia and the Chukchi in Siberia. Such people do not grow crops and keep only a few domestic animals, mostly for transport (e.g. husky dogs or reindeer), not
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3.5 The structure of adipose tissue

Since food is only available seasonally or intermittently at high latitudes, many arctic birds and mammals, including polar bears, Svalbard reindeer, arctic foxes, seals and walruses, naturally accumulate large stores of fat. The quantity of energy stored and the metabolic control of its use are finely adjusted to the habits and habitat of the species. This section is concerned with the cellular structure and anatomical organization of adipose tissue in such naturally obese species. Most labo
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1.1.1 The chemical structure of DNA

This unit explores the chemical nature of the genome. Genomes are composed of DNA, and a knowledge of the structure of DNA is essential to understand how it can function as hereditary material. DNA is remarkable, breathtakingly simple in its structure yet capable of directing all the living processes in a cell, the production of new cells and the development of a fertilized egg to an individual adult.

DNA illustrates beautifully the precise relationship between molecular structure and b
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should understand:

  • the basic composition and structure of DNA;

  • what is meant by complementary DNA base pairing;

  • how base pairing allows a mechanism for DNA replication;

  • the number of DNA molecules within a chromosome.


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4 From DNA to RNA: transcription

In the process of transcription, the information in a gene, i.e. the DNA base sequence, is copied, or transcribed, to form an RNA molecule. RNA is therefore an intermediary in the flow of information from DNA to protein. Before we consider the details of transcription, we will first look at the structure of RNA.

The name ribonucleic acid suggests that RNA is chemically related to DNA. Like DNA, RNA is a chain of nucleotides.

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3 The flow of information from DNA to RNA to protein

The information flow from DNA to protein is more complex than shown in Figure 1. The genetic information encoded within the DNA of a gene is carried via an intermediary molecule, RNA (ribonucleic acid). Information within a cell can therefore be seen as passing from DNA, via RNA, to a protein. This flow of information can b
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2 One gene–one protein

A gene is a short section of a long DNA double helix molecule, which comprises a linear sequence of base pairs.

SAQ 1

What is the basic (primary) structure of a protein?

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1 Using information stored in DNA

One important property of DNA is that it carries genetic information in the simple coding language of just four bases. These bases, which can be arranged in a huge variety of sequences, represent a vast potential store of information. In this unit, we consider how this information is used by the cell. The key structural feature of complementary base pairs, which plays an important role in both stability and replication, is also the basis for how DNA functions as genetic material.

How do
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should understand:

  • how the linear sequence of DNA within a gene is related to the linear sequence of amino acids of a protein

  • how the information in DNA is carried via RNA to make a protein

  • how RNA is synthesised from DNA by the process of transcription

  • where the processes of transcription and translation occur within the cell


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Introduction

This unit explores how information contained in DNA is used, explaining the flow of information from DNA to RNA to protein. Also introduced are the concepts of transcription (as occurs between DNA and RNA) and translation.

This unit is an adapted extract from the course Human genetics and health issues (SK195)


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