Indexed on: 01 Jun '02Published on: 01 Jun '02Published in: Journal of Biosciences
Information is often encoded as an aperiodic chain of building blocks. Modern digital computers use bits as the building blocks, but in general the choice of building blocks depends on the nature of the information to be encoded. What are the optimal building blocks to encode structural information? This can be analysed by substituting the operations of addition and multiplication of conventional arithmetic with translation and rotation. It is argued that at the molecular level, the best component for encoding discretized structural information is carbon. Living organisms discovered this billions of years ago, and used carbon as the back-bone for constructing proteins that function according to their structure. Structural analysis of polypeptide chains shows that an efficient and versatile structural language of 20 building blocks is needed to implement all the tasks carried out by proteins. Properties of amino acids indicate that the present triplet genetic code was preceded by a more primitive one, coding for 10 amino acids using two nucleotide bases.