One would think that when DNA biology uses the word palindrome it would mean approximately the same thing as palindrome in other contexts. As I understand it, this is not true. Whereas, a normal palindrome built on CAT would be CATTAC, in DNA/RNA biology a palindrome built on CAT would be CATATG (!). (I would have guessed they would instead have used a neologism like complindrome for this pattern structure, in which the second half is the reverse of the nucleic-acid complement of the first half.)

What person or paper introduced this nonstandard use of palindrome?

A much less frequent term in molecular biology is pseudopalindrome. It's not clear if there is any consensus among biologists as to what the term means, although mostly it seems to refer to some form of almost-bio-palindrome, like CATATT. When and where did pseudopalindrome for particular DNA sequence patterns start?


1 Answer 1


It seems the term was coined in Wilson & Thomas (1974) Palindromes in Chromosomes. (Journal of Molecular Biology):

Given the antiparallel character of the DNA double helix, only two kinds of repeating sequences are expected to have structural significance: ordinary repetitions (A B C.. . A B C) and inverted repetitions (A B C . . . C’B’A’) .
When inverted repetitions are separated by only a few intervening nucleotides, their similarity with a palindrome is sufficient to give them this name

A', B' and C' being the complementaries of A, B and C.

The fact is, an actual sensu stricto palindrome (e. g. ACTTCA) would be an amusing trivia but bare no structural significance, therefore there is no real need to give it a name.


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