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Biology for Kids

DNA and Genes

DNA is an essential molecule for life. It acts like a recipe holding the instructions telling our bodies how to develop and function.

What does DNA stand for?

DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid.

What is DNA made of?

DNA is a long thin molecule made up of something called nucleotides. There are four different types of nucleotides: adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. They are usually represented by their first letter: Holding the nucleotides together is a backbone made of phosphate and deoxyribose. The nucleotides are sometimes referred to as "bases".


The basic structure of the DNA molecule

Different Cells in the Body

Our bodies have around 210 different types of cells. Each cell does a different job to help our body to function. There are blood cells, bone cells, and cells that make our muscles.

How do cells know what to do?

Cells get their instructions on what do to from DNA. DNA acts sort of like a computer program. The cell is the computer or the hardware and the DNA is the program or code.

The DNA Code

The DNA code is held by the different letters of the nucleotides. As the cell "reads" the instructions on the DNA the different letters represent instructions. Every three letters makes up a word called a codon. A string of codons may look like this:

ATC TGA GGA AAT GAC CAG


Even though there are only four different letters, DNA molecules are thousands of letters long. This allows for billions and billions of different combinations.

Genes

Within each string of DNA are sets of instructions called genes. A gene tells a cell how to make a specific protein. Proteins are used by the cell to perform certain functions, to grow, and to survive.

Shape of the DNA Molecule

Although DNA looks like very thin long strings under a microscope, it turns out that DNA has a specific shape. This shape is called a double helix. On the outside of the double helix is the backbone which holds the DNA together. There are two sets of backbones that twist together. Between the backbones are the nucleotides represented by the letters A, T, C, and G. A different nucleotide connects to each backbone and then connects to another nucleotide in the center.

Only certain sets of nucleotides can fit together. You can think of them like puzzle pieces: A only connects with T and G only connects with C.

Interesting Facts about DNA

More Biology Subjects

Cell
The Cell
Cell Cycle and Division
Nucleus
Ribosomes
Mitochondria
Chloroplasts
Proteins
Enzymes

The Human Body
Brain
Nervous System
Digestive System
Sight and the Eye
Hearing and the Ear
Smelling and Tasting
Skin
Muscles
Breathing
Blood and Heart
Bones
List of Human Bones
Immune System
Organs

Nutrition
Nutrition
Vitamins and Minerals
Carbohydrates
Lipids
Enzymes

Genetics
Chromosomes
DNA
Mendel and Heredity
Hereditary Patterns
Proteins and Amino Acids

Plants
Photosynthesis
Plant Structure
Plant Defenses
Flowering Plants
Non-Flowering Plants
Trees
Living Organisms
Scientific Classification
Animals
Bacteria
Protists
Fungi
Viruses

Disease
Infectious Disease
Medicine and Pharmaceutical Drugs
Epidemics and Pandemics
Historical Epidemics and Pandemics
Immune System
Cancer
Concussions
Diabetes
Influenza


Science >> Biology for Kids






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