DNA 101 - What is it?

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) is a chemical structure that forms chromosomes. A piece of a chromosome that dictates a particular trait is called a gene.

Structurally, DNA is a double helix: two strands of genetic material spiraled around each other. Each strand contains a sequence of bases (also called nucleotides). A base is one of four chemicals (adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine).

The two strands of DNA are connected at each base. Each base will only bond with one other base, as follows: Adenine (A) will only bond with thymine (T), and guanine (G) will only bond with cytosine (C). Suppose one strand of DNA looks like this:


The DNA strand bound to it will look like this:


Together, the section of DNA would be represented like this:


DNA strands are read in a particular direction, from the top (called the 5' or "five prime" end) to the bottom (called the 3' or "three prime" end). In a double helix, the strands go opposite ways:

5' T-T-G-A-C-T-A-T-C-C-A-G-A-T-C 3'
3' A-A-C-T-G-A-T-A-G-G-T-C-T-A-G 5'

The chemical structure of DNA is as follows:

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