What is DNA?

Deoxyribonucleic acid, commonly known as DNA, is the fundamental building block of life. It carries the genetic instructions that determine the traits and characteristics of all living organisms. Understanding the structure of DNA has been a pivotal breakthrough in the field of genetics and has revolutionized our understanding of how life functions.

    Fill Out the Form for Expert Academic Guidance!


    Live ClassesBooksTest SeriesSelf Learning

    Verify OTP Code (required)

    I agree to the terms and conditions and privacy policy.

    Discovery of DNA

    The discovery of DNA as the carrier of genetic information can be attributed to several key scientists.

    Johannes Friedrich Miescher was a Swiss physician and biologist who made significant contributions in the study of nucleic acids. His most notable contribution was the discovery of nucleic acids, specifically what he called “nuclein,” which is now known as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

    James Watson and Francis Crick are widely recognized for their groundbreaking work in elucidating the structure of DNA. In 1953, they proposed the double-helix structure of DNA, which remains the foundation of our understanding today. Their work was greatly influenced by the findings of other scientists such as Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, who used X-ray crystallography to capture images of DNA fibres.

    DNA as a Polynucleotide Molecule

    DNA is often referred to as a polynucleotide molecule due to its composition. It is composed of repeating units called nucleotides, which are long chains of molecules linked together. Each nucleotide consists of three components: a phosphate group, a sugar molecule (deoxyribose), and a nitrogenous base. The nitrogenous bases are of four types: adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G).

    Various types of DNA

    A, B, and Z DNA are different structural forms of DNA. These forms are named based on their distinct conformations and arrangements of the DNA double helix.

    A DNA

    “A DNA” is a right-handed double helix structure. It is slightly shorter and wider than the B DNA form. DNA is observed under specific conditions, such as dehydration or in the presence of certain salts. It occurs when DNA is not fully hydrated or is in non-physiological environments.

    B DNA

    “B DNA” is the most common and biologically relevant form of DNA. It is a right-handed double helix structure that occurs under physiological conditions in living cells.

    Z DNA

    “Z DNA” is a left-handed double helix structure. It is a less common form of DNA that can occur under specific sequences and conditions. Z DNA is characterized by a zigzag pattern along the helix, giving it its name.

    DNA Structure

    The structure of B DNA, as proposed by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, is known as the Watson-Crick model. This model describes B DNA as a right-handed double helix composed of two anti-parallel polynucleotide strands twisted around a common axis. Here are the key features of the B DNA structure:

    1. Double Helix: B DNA consists of two polynucleotide strands that run in opposite directions, commonly referred to as the 5′ to 3′ and 3′ to 5′ strands. The two strands are held together by hydrogen bonds between complementary base pairs. Adenine (A) forms two hydrogen bonds with thymine (T), and cytosine (C) forms three hydrogen bonds with guanine (G).
    2. Base Pairing: The base pairs are arranged in the interior of the double helix. Adenine always pairs with thymine, and cytosine always pairs with guanine, forming A-T and C-G base pairs. This complementary base pairing ensures the stability and specificity of the DNA structure.
    3. Sugar-Phosphate Backbone: The nucleotides in each DNA strand are linked by covalent phosphodiester bonds between the phosphate group of one nucleotide and the sugar molecule of the next nucleotide. The sugar-phosphate backbones of the two strands run in opposite directions, with one strand oriented in the 5′ to 3′ direction and the other in the 3′ to 5′ direction.
    4. Right-Handed Helix: B DNA has a right-handed helical structure, meaning that the two strands twist around the helix axis in a clockwise direction. The helix is characterized by approximately 10 base pairs per complete turn, resulting in a pitch of approximately 3.4 nanometers.
    5. Major and Minor Grooves: The arrangement of the base pairs creates two distinct grooves along the DNA helix. The major groove is wider and deeper, while the minor groove is narrower and shallower.

    Structure of DNA

    Structure of DNA

    Chargaff’s Rule

    Chargaff’s rule, proposed by Erwin Chargaff, describes the relationship between the four nitrogenous bases in DNA. The key points of Chargaff’s rule are as follows:

    • Base Pair Composition: In a DNA molecule, the amount of adenine (A) is equal to the amount of thymine (T), and the amount of cytosine (C) is equal to the amount of guanine (G).
    • A = T and C = G: Chargaff’s rule states that the base pairs in DNA are complementary. Adenine always pairs with thymine (A-T), and cytosine always pairs with guanine (C-G).
    • Ratios of Base Pairs: The ratio of A to T and C to G can vary among different species. However, within an organism, the amount of A is always equal to T, and the amount of C is always equal to G.
    • Chargaff’s rule was instrumental in elucidating the double helix structure of DNA proposed by Watson and Crick.

    DNA Replication

    DNA replication is a crucial process that ensures the accurate transmission of genetic information from one generation to the next. During replication, the two strands of DNA separate, and each serves as a template for the synthesis of a new complementary strand. This process is facilitated by enzymes called DNA polymerases, which catalyze the addition of new nucleotides to the growing DNA strand. As a result, two identical DNA molecules are produced, each containing one original strand and one newly synthesized strand. This method of replication is termed as semi-conservative method of DNA replication.

    • Initiation: Replication begins at specific sites called origins of replication. Proteins, including helicase, bind to the origin, unwinding the double helix and creating a replication bubble.
    • Elongation: DNA polymerase attaches to the single-stranded DNA template and synthesizes new DNA strands in a 5′ to 3′ direction. The leading strand is synthesized continuously, while the lagging strand is synthesized in short fragments called Okazaki fragments.
    • Termination: Replication proceeds bidirectionally until two replication forks meet. Termination sites trigger the completion of replication.

    Functions of DNA

    DNA plays a vital role in the functioning of living organisms. Its primary function is to carry and transmit genetic information from parents to offspring, determining an individual’s traits and characteristics. It serves as a blueprint, providing instructions for the assembly of amino acids in the correct order to form specific proteins.

    Moreover, DNA is involved in various cellular processes, such as the regulation of gene expression, cell division, and repair of damaged DNA. It acts as a hereditary material, storing the genetic information that is passed down through generations, ensuring the continuity of life.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Describe the structure of DNA.

    DNA has a double helix structure, consisting of two polynucleotide strands twisted around each other in a right-handed manner. The strands are held together by hydrogen bonds between complementary base pairs (A-T and C-G).

    Who discovered the structure of DNA?

    James Watson and Francis Crick, along with the contributions of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, are credited with discovering the double helix structure of DNA in 1953.

    What are the components of a DNA nucleotide?

    DNA nucleotide consists of a phosphate group, a sugar molecule (deoxyribose), and a nitrogenous base (adenine, thymine, cytosine, or guanine).

    What is the role of hydrogen bonds in DNA structure?

    Hydrogen bonds form between complementary base pairs and hold the two DNA strands together. They provide the specificity and stability necessary for the accurate replication and transcription of DNA.

    What are the Salient features of DNA.

    Salient features of DNA include its double-stranded helical structure, consisting of nucleotides with a phosphate backbone, deoxyribose sugar, and four nitrogenous bases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine). It carries genetic information, exhibits base pairing (A-T, C-G), and serves as the hereditary material in living organisms. DNA is involved in protein synthesis and plays a fundamental role in inheritance and the functioning of cells.

    Chat on WhatsApp Call Infinity Learn

      Talk to our academic expert!


      Live ClassesBooksTest SeriesSelf Learning

      Verify OTP Code (required)

      I agree to the terms and conditions and privacy policy.