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Nucleic Acids 101

DNA, Chromosomes, Genes

Nucleic Acid Structure

Watson-Crick Base Pairing

Nucleic Acids & Heredity

DNA Replication

RNA Structure & Function

RNA Synthesis: Transcription

The Genetic Code

Protein Synthesis: Translation

Test Your Knowledge!


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INTRODUCTION TO DNA

You've probably heard the term a million times. You know that DNA is something inside cells; you probably know that DNA has something to do with who we are and how we get to look the way we do. You know that DNA has something to do with inheritance (I have my dad's nose and my mom's height). But there's a lot more to know about DNA and it's role as "the building blocks of life."

Have you ever wondered how the DNA in ONE egg cell and ONE sperm cell can produce a whole human being different from any other? How does DNA direct a cell's activities? Why do mutations in DNA cause such trouble (or have a positive effect)? How does a cell in your kidney "know" that it's a kidney cell as opposed to a brain cell or a skin cell or a cell in your eye?

How can all the information needed to regulate the cell's activities be stuffed into a tiny nucleus?

To begin to find the answers to all these questions, you need to learn about the biological molecules called nucleic acids.

An organism (be it bacteria, rosebush, ant or human) has some form of nucleic acid which is the chemical carrier of its genetic information. There are two types of nucleic acids, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) which code for all the information that determines the nature of the organism's cells. As a matter of fact, DNA codes for all the instructions needed for the cell to perform different functions. Did you know that human DNA contains enough information to produce about 100,000 proteins?

Hopefully, this tutorial will give you the foundation to learn more about DNA! This tutorial should give you information on the following topics:

What is DNA and what is it made of? You'll read about the components of DNA (and RNA) and learn about the relationship between genes, chromosomes and DNA.

How is DNA reproduced? Every organism must produce copies of itself in order to pass on genetic information to its young before it dies...so must the cells in that organism, as well. How does the cell make a copy of itself and how is DNA copied as a part of that process?

What is the three-dimensional structure of DNA? The components which make up DNA come together in a specific way to form the DNA molecule. How do these components relate to one another to form DNA?

What is RNA and what are the functions of RNA? There are several types of RNA in cells, each with its own specific, important role in the cell. Why do cells need RNA if they have DNA?....we'll find out!

If organisms need RNA, then how do they synthesize it? The process of transcription explains how RNA is synthesized. You'll learn about the players in this process and how they work together to produce RNA.

Now that we have RNA, how do we make proteins from it? This question will be answered by looking at the process of translation. We'll take a look at the players in this process, as well.

PLEASE NOTE! MANY OF THE HYPERLINKS IN THIS TUTORIAL WILL TAKE YOU OUTSIDE MY WEB PAGE. SO, BE AWARE OF WHERE YOU ARE SO YOU DON'T GET LOST IN CYBERSPACE!


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