Home > DNA Basics > The Properties of DNA

The Properties of DNA

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 3 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Dna Sense Anti-sense Strand Molecule

DNA has a number of special physical and chemical properties that are important to its structure and functioning. While the terms may sound quite foreign and perhaps even complicated, they are significant to our understanding of DNA and its many applications today.

Physical Properties

In living organisms such as humans, DNA exists as a pair of molecules rather than a single molecule. These strands are entwined in the shape of a double helix and the helix is kept stable by hydrogen bonds, which can be found between the bases attached to the two strands. A long polymer, DNA is made up of smaller units called nucleotides. In turn, each nucleotide consists of a phosphate group, a sugar and a nitrogenous base. To get a sense of just how long a DNA polymer is, consider that just one human chromosome is several hundred million base pairs long.

Base Pairing

Base pairing is a defining property of DNA and was particularly exciting when it was first discovered because it suggested the 'copying' mechanism for DNA. In DNA, bases are specific in that an adenine base, for example, only pairs with a thymine base. Following on that premise, a cytosine base will only bond to a guanine base. This base pairing is also known as complementary base pairing. The concept is quite simplistic but it is significant for DNA.

DNA Grooves

DNA has two kinds of grooves that play important roles in its functioning. Major and minor grooves are structures to allow for necessary proteins in your body to make contact with bases. You might wonder what makes it so important for proteins to attach to the bases. Some of these proteins are called transcription factors. While the word may well be a foreign one for those unfamiliar with DNA - which is most of the public - it is a key one. Transcription factors have numerous roles such as telling your cells how large they should become or suppressing tumour growth. They are also significant for cell development and communication. As such, these DNA grooves seen in the structure of DNA facilitate the binding of proteins like transcription factors, which then serves to keep the cellular processes occurring effectively within your body.

DNA Supercoiling

If you try to picture a rope, you can get a visual image of DNA supercoiling. This coiling is a central property of DNA. DNA can be in a relaxed or coiled state and it is this coiling that allows our extremely long strands of DNA to fit or 'pack' into the comparatively much smaller cells in our bodies. This supercoiling property makes DNA more efficient by allowing it to make better use of space and fit neatly into a significantly smaller space relative to its relaxed, longer size.

DNA Conformations

DNA can exist in different conformations and these are important for a range of DNA mechanisms. These conformations interact with enzymes in your body and are also involved in aspects such as DNA repair.

DNA Sense and Antisense

To understand this aspect of DNA, you first need to be aware of RNA - ribonucleic acid. DNA holds the genetic 'codes' to make RNA. In turn, RNA is needed in your body because it holds the codes for the amino acids that make proteins. The antisense strand is the DNA strand that carries important information to make proteins by binding to the RNA. This antisense strand is the key for making proteins. In comparison, the sense strand is the one that does not code for RNA.

Despite the complex detail and challenges that come with understanding the properties of DNA, they are clearly important to its design and functioning in the human body. Since the discovery of DNA and our knowledge of its basic physical properties such as the double helix, we have progressed a great deal to learning about the chemical properties of DNA and interactions between DNA and its environment. Hopefully, we will learn even more detailed information about DNA structure and functioning in the future, which will have important applications in disease treatment and many other fields.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Carowhite - Your Question:
If one is asked a question like nucleotides are polymers of nucleic acid discuss, how do one answer this?

Our Response:
One does some research on the internet and creates one's own answer - if it's for homework! Describe a nucleaotide, and the process of how nucleotides polymerize to form nucleic acid - that would be a good start.
ExploreDNA - 4-Jul-17 @ 10:46 AM
If one is asked a question like nucleotides are polymers of nucleic acid discuss, how do one answer this?
Carowhite - 3-Jul-17 @ 2:09 AM
How does the nucleotide make up important properties of a DNA double helix?
natalie - 21-Sep-16 @ 1:41 AM
Can you please tell me what are exons and introns and how are they different from sense and antisense dna, because as I have read here and in others sites, one of them makes mRNA whereas one does not..please clear my doubt. Your site is amazin and has further inhanced my intrest in dna, thanks a lott..!
Divisha - 12-Oct-13 @ 5:57 PM
Good question. I would also like to know.
Bill - 29-Jul-11 @ 1:48 AM
Sir/Madam: Is there a possibility that the DNA will be dehydrated from its water content? Is there also a possibility that the dehydrated DNA will be rehydrated with water from other DNA structures thereby combining both the dehydrated DNA and the DNA that will rehydrate the dehydrated DNA? The way I think is that it might be possible. But the effect might be creating a monster. Well, I don't know. I am not a Scientist or Medical Practitioner. I am an Industrial and a Mechanical Engineer. I am also a Professional Teacher. Regards. Wendil
wendil - 30-May-11 @ 1:24 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • ExploreDNA
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Cat - Your Question:I was told that the man that I called Dad wasn't my father. The man that is supposed to be my father is die in 2012 but I…
    16 August 2017
  • Cat
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I was told that the man that I called Dad wasn't my father. The man that is supposed to be my father is die in 2012 but I have some of his…
    14 August 2017
  • ExploreDNA
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Rmebraatt - Your Question:My son passed away and I have his ashes and baby teeth, is there a way to get his DNA profile? I was adopted and…
    10 August 2017
  • Rmebraatt
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My son passed away and I have his ashes and baby teeth, is there a way to get his DNA profile? I was adopted and told the search would be…
    9 August 2017
  • Freddy
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My ex wife has always told me my late son was my biological son but o was not named on the birth certificate!!! My son also had a son 3mths…
    26 July 2017
  • ExploreDNA
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Lost - Your Question:I have 3 older sisters who share the same mother and father. When I was conceived, my mother and her husband were…
    26 July 2017
  • Nothing
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    In Hindu purana their is a story once sage suklacharya drunk a water in which it contains burnt ashes of a dead body...in this mythical story…
    22 July 2017
  • Lost
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I have 3 older sisters who share the same mother and father. When I was conceived, my mother and her husband were legally separated. My…
    21 July 2017
  • Liz
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My daughter's grandma called to see if my daughter could go to mexico to give her DNA. She gave no reason why she needed. I can only guess…
    13 July 2017
  • ExploreDNA
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Mari - Your Question:I want to know if I can do a DNA test on my son his father passed away disnt give him time change it in the birth…
    6 July 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ExploreDNA website. Please read our Disclaimer.