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Replication of DNA
A-level

You may have some understanding


of the structure of DNA and its
importance in controlling cell activity.

You should know that when new cells are made


during cell division, each new cell must have an
exact copy of the instructions to carry out its
function properly.

You should also know that DNA


is copied and passed from one
generation to the next, allowing genes
to be passed from parent to offspring.

You will need to know how DNA makes a copy of


itself in order to enable the inheritance of genes
from the parents.

Topic Builders

GCSE

How does DNA make copies of itself?


DNA replication is a way of making copies of the DNA, producing new molecules that are identical
to the parent strand. It occurs during the interphase of the cell cycle.
The replication is called semi-conservative replication, as the new molecule formed has one
new strand and one of the original parent strands of DNA.
Replication occurs in the nucleus.
For replication to take place, a number of molecules must be present:

Original DNA

Free nucleotides

Enzyme DNA helicase

Enzyme DNA polymerase

Enzyme DNA ligase

DNA replication involves a number of stages:


1

The double helix is separated, or unzipped, by the enzyme DNA helicase, which breaks
the hydrogen bonds between the complementary bases.

Each strand now acts as a template for the formation of new/daughter DNA.

Free DNA nucleotides are joined with the exposed bases on the template strand by the
enzyme DNA polymerase.

The four different types of DNA nucleotides are joined in the following way: adenine pairs
with thymine, and guanine pairs with cytosine.

In the leading strand, the free nucleotides are joined continuously in one go.

In the lagging strand, the free nucleotides are joined in short strands and these sections are
joined by the enzyme DNA ligase.

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27

Replication of DNA
Overall direction of replication
DNA polymerase

3
leading strand

5
replication fork

primer

parental strand

lagging strand

DNA helicase
(breaking bonds)

5
DNA ligase

Each new strand is complementary to the template on which it is made.

Tasks and Questions


Task 1
Complete the table below by filling in the missing gaps for either the enzyme responsible or
the function.
Enzyme

Function

Attaches the free nucleotides to the template strand

Breaks the hydrogen bonds between the complementary


bases pairs in the double helix

DNA ligase

Task 2
Label the diagram showing the replication of DNA.
A

C
F

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Replication of DNA

What name is given to the model of DNA replication?

In what part of a human cell does DNA replication take place?

How many strands are there at the end of one cycle?

Explain the term semi-conservative replication.

What is the function of DNA helicase in the replication process?

What type of bond is present between complementary bases on the two strands?

List the components required for DNA replication.

Which strand is replicated as one continuous process?

When does DNA replication occur?

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What is the function of DNA ligase?

Topic Builders

Questions

Taking it Further
Make more detailed notes about how DNA replication takes place. It may be useful to draw and
label diagrams of the different stages of the replication process.
The questions below may help you to structure and organise your notes. Use your course text
book to add further information.
Where in the cell is DNA found?
Why is it necessary for DNA to undergo replication?
How does replication occur and what molecules need to be present?
What would the results be if DNA replication occurred by conservative replication and
dispersive replication? Use diagrams to show the possibilities of these types of replication.

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