I know something that Nature does not know… DNA is not lefthanded

I’ve written before about Nature’s tendency to publish biologically inaccurate covers. But this one really caught my attention.

This is a cover about DNA sequencing, but the structure of the DNA molecule they show is wrong – in a crucial way. DNA is a chiral molecule – meaning it can occur in forms that differ like our right and left hands. They are similar – but are not interchangeable. DNA in our cells is normally righthanded, but the DNA pictured here is the non-natural lefthanded form.

Tom Schneider describes the difference well and has tirelessly chronicled the myriad times that left handed DNA has been erroneously portrayed in lieu of its righthanded cousin. But it’s particularly offensive that the journal that published the original structure of DNA would get its structure wrong. Here is a figure from the original paper:

It’s more than just an accident. They clearly care only about the aesthetics of their covers – and are happy to farm out to a graphic designer who doesn’t understand the biology. More distressingly, noone at Nature caught the mistake. I’m tempted to make the obvious analogy to the content of the journal, but I’ll leave that alone….

(For those of you who don’t get the title of the post – it’s a reference to The Princess Bride).

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