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Chapter 1. Biology in the Computer Age  > How Is Computing Changing Biology?

1.1. How Is Computing Changing Biology?

An organism's hereditary and functional information is stored as DNA, RNA, and proteins, all of which are linear chains composed of smaller molecules. These macromolecules are assembled from a fixed alphabet of well-understood chemicals: DNA is made up of four deoxyribonucleotides (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine), RNA is made up from the four ribonucleotides (adenine, uracil, cytosine, and guanine), and proteins are made from the 20 amino acids. Because these macromolecules are linear chains of defined components, they can be represented as sequences of symbols. These sequences can then be compared to find similarities that suggest the molecules are related by form or function.

Sequence comparison is possibly the most useful computational tool to emerge for molecular biologists. The World Wide Web has made it possible for a single public database of genome sequence data to provide services through a uniform interface to a worldwide community of users. With a commonly used computer program called fsBLAST, a molecular biologist can compare an uncharacterized DNA sequence to the entire publicly held collection of DNA sequences. In the next section, we present an example of how sequence comparison using the BLAST program can help you gain insight into a real disease.


  

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