Related topics: genes · protein · cells · genome · chromosomes

New method boosts the study of regulation of gene activity

One way cells can control the activities of their genes is by adding small chemical modifications to the DNA that determine which genes are turned on or off. Methyl groups are one of these chemical modifications or tags. ...

'Soft' CRISPR may offer a new fix for genetic defects

Curing debilitating genetic diseases is one of the great challenges of modern medicine. During the past decade, development of CRISPR technologies and advancements in genetics research brought new hope for patients and their ...

Scientists engineer synthetic DNA to study 'architect' genes

Researchers at New York University have created artificial Hox genes—which plan and direct where cells go to develop tissues or organs—using new synthetic DNA technology and genomic engineering in stem cells.

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes

Two levels underground, Chicago's Field Museum has a secret bunker. The sub-basement Collections Resource Center houses millions of biological specimens for scientists around the world to use in their research, including ...

Researchers identify the microbes in 100-year-old snail guts

On a drizzly day in July 1920, a Colorado scientist named Junius Henderson was hiking around the Dakota Hogback, a sandstone ridge north of Boulder. There, he spotted a group of Rocky Mountain snails (Oreohelix strigosa) ...

Confirmed new fungus has mysterious origins

CABI has confirmed a new species of fungus after the BBC Springwatch show called on Dr. Harry Evans' expertise when the mysterious specimen was first discovered in a Victorian gunpowder store at Castle Espie wetland center ...

The answer to a red fox mystery is in their DNA

Scientists know that Europeans brought red foxes to North America, likely for hunting, while other red foxes escaped into the wild from fur farms. But are some red foxes found on the East Coast, and in North Carolina, native?

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DNA

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and some viruses. The main role of DNA molecules is the long-term storage of information. DNA is often compared to a set of blueprints or a recipe, or a code, since it contains the instructions needed to construct other components of cells, such as proteins and RNA molecules. The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in regulating the use of this genetic information.

Chemically, DNA consists of two long polymers of simple units called nucleotides, with backbones made of sugars and phosphate groups joined by ester bonds. These two strands run in opposite directions to each other and are therefore anti-parallel. Attached to each sugar is one of four types of molecules called bases. It is the sequence of these four bases along the backbone that encodes information. This information is read using the genetic code, which specifies the sequence of the amino acids within proteins. The code is read by copying stretches of DNA into the related nucleic acid RNA, in a process called transcription.

Within cells, DNA is organized into X-shaped structures called chromosomes. These chromosomes are duplicated before cells divide, in a process called DNA replication. Eukaryotic organisms (animals, plants, fungi, and protists) store most of their DNA inside the cell nucleus and some of their DNA in the mitochondria (animals and plants) and chloroplasts (plants only). Prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) however, store their DNA in the cell's cytoplasm. Within the chromosomes, chromatin proteins such as histones compact and organize DNA. These compact structures guide the interactions between DNA and other proteins, helping control which parts of the DNA are transcribed.

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