The double-helical structure of DNA is one of the most recognizable scientific images, and one of the most frequently abused. In particular, it is often shown as a left-handed instead of a right-handed helix.
The announcement last month that the first draft of the human genome is complete has featured prominently in the national news, frequently accompanied by left-handed helices.
More worrying than this mistake made by the popular press is the frequency with which DNA is wrongly depicted in the scientific press, particularly that of the genetics community. Such errors do little to inspire confidence.
Nature has no excuse for depicting left-handed helices in a figure to an Insight article about functional genomics1, or for claiming in a Book review that Franklin's X-ray crystallograph “led Watson and Crick to deduce the left-handed double-helical structure of DNA”2.
On the contrary, Watson and Crick's original article3 describes (and illustrates!) a right-handed sense.
Vukmirovic, O. G. & Tilghman, S. M. Nature 405, 821 (2000).
Nature 405, 737 ( 2000).
Watson, J. D. & Crick, F. H. C. Nature 171, 737 (1953).
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Porter, C. That famous double helix takes a sinister turn. Nature 406, 234 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35018742