The Left Handed DNA
Hall of Fame

- Tom Schneider
The Left handed DNA Hall of Fame has moved.
Please note the NEW LOCATION:


    version = 2.01 of leftyear1989.txt 2009 Sep 29

  1. The earliest Left handed DNA that we are aware of is an Israeli stamp from 1964. The image was sent to me by Irwin Tessman (Department of Biological Sciences Purdue University West Lafayette IN 47907-1392). The stamp is in "Chemistry on stamps (chemophilately)". Rappoport, Z. Acc. Chem. Res., 25(1), 24- 31, 1992. It is in the lower right corner of Figure 2, and is described on page 30 as having 'the "abnormal" helicity of DNA'. Click to see the complete beautiful stamp.
    as of 1998 Nov 23

  2. The now out of print book, Molecular Biology of the Gene by James D. Watson (W. A. Benjamin, Inc, Menlo Park, California, third Edition, ISBN 0-8053-9609-8) has a series of left handed DNA pictures on pages 228 (fig 9-18), 263 (fig 10-10 and 10-11), 268 (fig 10-16), 290 (fig 11-8), 292 (fig 11-9), and 419 (fig 15-9). (Thanks to Richard Wolf ( for pointing this one out!) as of 1999 April 23. "There is at least one additional drawing of left-handed DNA on p. 216 (fig 9-9). Also, the Fig. 11-8 on p. 290 is particularly cute in presenting a right-handed structure amidst two left-handed flanks in the same drawing (the central portion showing a hybrid duplex of RNA/DNA, though)." (Thanks to Richard Egel, for pointing this one out!) as of 2000 August 18.
    around 1980
  3. Until Dr. Tessman informed me otherwise in November 1998, the earliest example I was aware of is a beautiful drawing of a circular plasmid by the Beckman Company published around 1980. "Our experience covers over 40 years of innovation and unmatched quality".
  4. On the cover of Nature Volume 284 Number 5757, 17 April 1980 is on left handed "Selfish DNA" (a series of left-handed twisting snakes eating each other in a circle). The person who found it writes:

    Hi there! Yes, I am a Newsweek reader. I am also an artist responsible for perhaps one of the first left-handed boo-boos.

    My husband and his old advisor (Doolittle and Sapienza) wrote a piece on "Selfish DNA" that was accepted by Nature. Their paper and another by Crick and Orgel became the magazine's cover topic. Lucky me! I got to draw for Nature!

    No one noticed that my design was left-handed until the journal was in press. I will admit that the scientists thought it was pretty funny (well, what could they do at that point?).

    In the US the background color was an ugly light orange, but the British version was a vivid red.

    I'm starting to feel like a real part of history here...uh, infamous too.


    Thanks for a great site!

    (Thanks to Linda Angeloff Sapienza,, for pointing this one out!)
    as of 2000 May 30
  5. Principles of Biochemistry by Albert L. Lehninger, Worth Publishers, Inc., New York. ISBN 0-87901-136-X. (added 1998 April 8) Page 850 shows a relaxed left handed DNA circle which when acted on by DNA gyrase with the hydrolysis of ATP to ADP + Pi becomes a supertwisted right-handed DNA.
  6. The Cartoon Guide To Genetics by Larry Gonick and Mark Wheelis (Barnes & Noble, NY, 1983), is a wonderful and funny introduction but unfortunately the cute RNA polymerase on the cover is chewing away at a left handed DNA. The cover of the updated edition has the even odder DNA that is changing twist as the RNA polymerase moves by. (It's a great book anyway!!)
  7. In a letter Nature 305:176 (1983) John H. Wilson and Peter B. Berget point out that in the advertisement for the Symposium: Molecular Biology Now & Tomorrow was a DNA that was simultaneously left and right handed! (Thanks to John Wilson for pointing this one out.)
  8. Arthur Kornberg, discoverer of DNA polymerase, wrote a book:
    For the love of enzymes: the odyssey of a biochemist Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1989.
    In the section on "Astonishing Machines of Replication" on page 227, figure 7-14 there is a figleaf covering the point of DNA replication, all of the strands coming out of it are left handed.
  9. An Amgen advertisement in Nature 340, 17 August 1989, shows a replicating left-handed DNA in space over the North American continent, with the words "Amgen Biologicals: bringing world class products to the forefront of biomedical research". Space invaders?
  10. The Trends in Biotechnology cover January 1989, Volume 7 No.1 shows both left and right-hand forms coming from a single plant.

For your first visit to the Left Handed Hall of Fame page I suggest that you follow the story over all of the years. After that you can look at each year individually from the table below. Note: just because a year has gone by does not mean we haven't found more examples for that year!

1997 and 1998 were bumper crop years
and 1999 beat them more than 2 fold. 2000 was a record year, thanks to help from friends around the world (60 of the 97 cases, 63%!). 2001 exceeded even that record! 2002 was lower - are we making headway?

Year Number of Left Handed DNAs
1964 1
... -
~1980 2
1978 1
1982 1
1983 2
... -
1989 3
1990 16 (5 from the Tessman letter)
1991 6
1992 5
1993 6
1994 4
1995 9
1996 31
1997 37
1998 37
1999 77
2000 97
2001 105
2002 57
2003 55
2004 55
2005 44 (minimizing images)
2006 17 (minimizing images)
2007 26 (no images, sorry)
2008 16 (no images, sorry)
2009 23 (no images, sorry)
2010 26 (no images, sorry)
2011 11 (only 2 images, sorry)
2012 11 (only rare images, sorry)
2013 12 (only rare images, sorry)
2014 12 (only rare images, sorry)
2015 3 (images under Fair Use copyright policy)
2016 2 (images under Fair Use copyright policy)
2017 4 (images under Fair Use copyright policy)
All 814

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Tom Schneider

updated: 2017Nov05_15:18:59

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