In 2003, I was reading a medical article about the potential of “anti-sense” compounds as a new medical treatment, within a few days of my reading 2 Nephi 2:11. I was initially curious regarding the possible linkage of “sense and insensibility” in the Book of Mormon to “sense and antisense” as modern names for DNA & RNA chains. As I have more deeply studied and contemplated that verse, and my knowledge of DNA, I identified significant additional similarities between that Book of Mormon verse and DNA & RNA.
I was struck with the thought that when Lehi spoke of “opposition in all things” in 2 Nephi 2:11, he was also describing DNA and RNA
DNA and RNA are the foundation of earthly life. I am thrilled that Lehi’s description of the principles of opposition is so very descriptive of what we now know about DNA & RNA form and function. The linkage of “sense nor insensibility” to “sense and antisense” seems an added bonus.
I realize this is fairly technical biologic information. But I think it will be of value for students of the Book of Mormon who have also studied and have some understanding of DNA and RNA form, function and terminology. To me it is fascinating that Lehi’s dissertation regarding “opposition in all things” even extends to DNA and RNA, which are the roots of life in basically all living organisms. There are other areas in the physical and biologic sciences where the principle of “opposition in all things” also applies.
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”
(Lehi, teaching his son Jacob, in 2 Nephi 2:11)
DNA is a “double helix” compound, a duplex of entwined DNA strands. In each duplex, the bases or nucleotides (adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine) of each DNA chain are weakly bound by hydrogen bonds to complementary nucleotides on the opposite strand (A to T, G to C). The “sense” or “coding” DNA strand has the same nucleotide sequence as the normal/natural messenger RNA. The “antisense” or “non-coding” DNA strand is complementary to the opposite “sense” DNA strand, and is the template for messenger RNA synthesis. “Sense” RNA is the natural messenger RNA. “Antisense” RNA is complementary to the messenger RNA, and is transcribed from the “sense” DNA. It is “antisense” because it is the chemical opposite of “sense” or natural messenger RNA. In RNA the thymine nucleotide of DNA is replaced by a uracil nucleotide.
During transcription of information from DNA to messenger RNA, the two complementary strands of DNA partly uncoil. The “sense” DNA strand separates from the “antisense” DNA strand. The “antisense” strand of DNA is used as a template for transcribing enzymes which assemble messenger RNA, a process called “transcription”. Then the messenger RNA migrates from the nucleus into the cytoplasm where other cellular structures called ribosomes read the encoded information from the messenger RNA’s base sequence, and in so doing, string together amino acids to form a specific protein. This process is called “translation”.
The natural messenger RNA chain was called “sense” by the DNA and RNA researchers because functionally it makes sense, it encodes the cell’s proteins. The DNA chain with the same nucleotide sequence (DNA thymine for RNA uracil) as the natural messenger RNA is called the “sense” DNA chain. The “non-sense” chain is called “antisense” because it is opposite the “sense” chain.
Antisense drugs are complementary strands of small segments of messenger RNA. To create antisense drugs, nucleotides are linked together in short chains (called oligonucleotides). Each antisense drug is designed to bind to a specific sequence of nucleotides in its messenger RNA target to inhibit production of the protein encoded by the target messenger RNA. The term “antisense” RNA is also indicative that it is against/opposes the function of “sense” messenger RNA. Antisense drugs have the potential to be much more selective or specific than traditional drugs, and therefore more effective. Antisense drugs may be the drugs of the future.
(Information modified from www.isispharm.com/antisens.htm, and https://www.majordifferences.com/2015/01/difference-between-sense-and-antisense.html#.XaW8T0ZKiUk
Scientists first used the terms “sense” and “antisense” to name the DNA and RNA chains in approximately 1985-1990, according to Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, Second Edition, 1997.
The following table illustrates the comparison of 2 Nephi 2:11 and modern DNA & RNA: