DNA 101

By Heather Buschman, Ph.D.
September 21, 2010
44

DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid. Two chains of four chemical bases (abbreviated A, T, C and G) make up DNA and act as a cell’s recipe book to make proteins. The particular sequence of a DNA chain – meaning the precise order of the four chemical bases – determines what protein will be made. A DNA segment beginning with ATTCGC would produce a very different protein than one that starts with CCGTAT. This can be likened to adjusting the order of letters in a word. Though the letters are the same, the meaning changes. For example,  act means something very different than cat.Not all DNA is destined to become a protein. Just as a recipe might contain more information than just a list of ingredients, only some regions of your DNA – called genes – are directly translated into proteins. Cellular machinery follows the instructions written in a gene’s recipe to create a corresponding sequence of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), which is chemically similar to DNA but acts as a messenger, carrying the recipe from the nucleus. Out in the cell’s cytosol, the mRNA sequence is read by more machines, called ribosomes. Following the mRNA instructions, ribosomes string together amino acids, the building blocks that make up proteins. Proteins do most of the work in the cell.

As cells divide, producing two cells where there was once only one, the parent cell’s DNA is duplicated and the same protein-making recipe is passed on to the daughter cell.

Learn more:
Proteins 101
Nuclear Receptors 101
Mitochondria 101
Stem Cells 101

The clip below is from the PBS production, DNA: The Secret of Life.

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About Author

Heather Buschman, Ph.D.

Heather was an SBP Communications staff member.

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44 Comments

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  25. thabks for this video, it helped me on my science project as well as many other things, including math. the little clip that you showed me was as well as facinating.i hope to see this video again into the future.

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  32. if both parents have each one bad gene what would happen to the baby would the baby have any side effects if any how great are the chances of it happenig and can it be treated

  33. Quest no . 1 – Can DNA / RNA predict or reveal the – Psycology , behavior and attitude of a person ?
    Ques No – 2 Can DNA / RNA predict or reveal – what kind of proffesion or work will s/he choose or s/he is compatible for in future ?

  34. HI I HAVE ONE DOUBT ie if sequence of chromosome is DNA and the sequence of DNA is gene then is DNA present in all cells ? and then i want a exact definition of DNA. please i am in a great confusion.

  35. Barring viral and bacterial DNA which are usually single stranded, DNA of Eukaryotes are double stranded and the strands are held together by weak thermodynamic forces by way of hydrogen bonds. Can somebody throw light on instances of triple stranded DNAs and post to http://www.dna2blackhole.com?

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