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What is DNA?

Deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms.
Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus
(where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the
mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).

Mitochondria
Mitochondria are structures within cells that convert the energy from food into a form that
cells can use. Each cell contains hundreds to thousands of mitochondria, which are located in
the fluid that surrounds the nucleus (the cytoplasm).

Nucleotides
The study of modern genetics depends on an understanding of the physical and chemical
characteristics of DNA. Some of the most fundamental properties of DNA emerge from the
characteristics of its four basic building blocks, called nucleotides. Knowing the composition of
nucleotides and the differences between the four nucleotides that make up DNA is central to
understanding DNA’s role in living systems.

A Closer Look: Chemical Structure of a Nucleotide


The three parts of the nucleotide building block of DNA are the sugar, the base and the
phosphate. The complex of the sugar with the base is called a nucleoside.

Sugar
The sugar is the 5-carbon sugar deoxyribose. By convention the carbons on this sugar are
labeled 1' through 5'.

Phosphate
The phosphate is attached to the 5' carbon of the deoxyribose sugar.

Base
The base is attached to the 1' carbon of the deoxyribose sugar. There are four different bases
found in DNA. Because each base contains at least two nitrogen atoms, they are called
nitrogenous bases. There are two classes of bases, the pyrimidines (cytosine (C) and thymine
(T)), and the purines (adenine (A) and guanine (G)).
4 Types of Nitrogen Bases
 Adenine
A compound that is one of the four constituent bases of nucleic acids. A purine derivative, it is
paired with thymine in double-stranded DNA.

 Thymine
Albrecht Kossel and Albert Neumann discovered thymine in 1893 when they successfully
isolated thymine from the thymus glands of calves for the first time in history.

 Guanine
The guanine nucleoside is called guanosine.

 Cytosine
A compound found in living tissue as a constituent base of nucleic acids. It is paired with
guanine in double-stranded DNA.

RNA
RNA stands for ribonucleic acid. It is an important molecule with long chains of nucleotides. A
nucleotide contains a nitrogenous base, a ribose sugar, and a phosphate. Just like DNA, RNA is
vital for living beings.

DNA compared to RNA


However unlike DNA, RNA comes in a variety of shapes and types. While DNA looks like a
double helix and a twisted ladder, RNA may be of more than one type. RNA is usually single-
stranded, while DNA is usually double-stranded. In addition, RNA contains ribose while DNA
contains deoxyribose. Deoxyribose lacks one oxygen atom. RNA has the bases Adenine (A),
Uracil (U) (instead of thymine in DNA), Cytosine (C) and Guanine (G).

Functions of RNA
The main job of RNA is to transfer the genetic code need for the creation of proteins from the
nucleus to the ribosome. This process prevents the DNA from having to leave the nucleus. This
keeps the DNA and genetic code protected from damage. Without RNA, proteins could never
be made.
mRNA, rRNA and tRNA
RNA is formed from DNA by a process called transcription. This uses enzymes like RNA
polymerases. RNA is central to protein synthesis. First a type of RNA called messenger RNA
(mRNA) carries information from DNA to structures called ribosomes. These ribosomes are
made from proteins and ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs). These all come together and form a complex
that can read messenger RNAs and translate the information they carry into proteins. This
requires the help of transfer RNA or tRNA.

Protein Synthesis
Transcription
is the first step of gene expression, in which a particular segment of DNA is copied
into RNA (mRNA) by the enzyme RNA polymerase. Both DNA and RNA are nucleic acids, which
use base pairs of nucleotides as a complementary language. During transcription, a DNA
sequence is read by an RNA polymerase, which produces a complementary, antiparallel RNA
strand called a primary transcript.

Translation
is the final step on the way from DNA to protein. It is the synthesis of proteins directed by a
mRNA template. The information contained in the nucleotide sequence of the mRNA is read as
three letter words (triplets), called codons. Each word stands for one amino acid.

Genetics
is the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in living organisms.[1][2] It is generally
considered a field of biology, but it intersects frequently with many of the life sciences and is
strongly linked with the study of information systems.

Genetic code
consists of 64 triplets of nucleotides. These triplets are called codons.