What does DNA stand for? What to know about deoxyribonucleic acid and its function.

·2 min read
Remains found at Jamestown. The remains contained DNA that indicated the bone was from an indigenous dog.

In our bodies, there are trillions of cells. From white blood cells to skin cells, each type has its own specific function which helps us perform tasks and survive.

But what makes up these cells and alerts them to do certain things? DNA is the foundation of all organisms and is responsible for development, function, growth and reproduction.

Let's break down some biology and learn more about this nucleic acid and what it does.

What does DNA stand for?

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid.

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What is DNA made of?

DNA is made of two winding strands that form a double helix, which looks like a twisted ladder. The strands are made of alternating sugar and phosphate groups.

In these groups are deoxyribose and one of four bases:

  • Adenine (A)

  • Cytosine (C)

  • Guanine (G)

  • Thymine (T)

The two strands are connected by chemical bonds between the bases. Each base can only pair with a specific opposite: Adenine bonds with thymine, and cytosine bonds with guanine.

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What is the function of DNA?

DNA contains all the important information in order for an organism to develop, reproduce and survive. These instructions help organisms make proteins, which aid in carrying out bodily functions.

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Where is DNA found?

Most DNA is found in the nucleus. The nucleus is often called the "control center of a cell" since it is in charge of functions such as metabolism, growth and reproduction. All of an organism's DNA is called its genome.

DNA is packed into chromosomes, which form genetic information to make genes. Humans typically have 23 pairs of chromosomes or 46 chromosomes in total.

Apart from the nucleus, a small amount of DNA can be found in the mitochondria. The mitochondria are often called the "powerhouse of the cell" since they are responsible for releasing energy from food.

What are the types of DNA?

There are three types of DNA:

  • A-DNA

  • B-DNA

  • Z-DNA

B-DNA is the most common form of DNA and has a right-handed double helix structure.

A-DNA forms in a shorter, right-handed double helix. The function of this form is to protect DNA. DNA will revert to this type when it's dehydrated.

Z-DNA has a left-handed double helix structure. It is said to be found during the start of a gene.

When does DNA replication occur?

DNA replication occurs in the S phase of the cell cycle.

DNA replication is the process where DNA copies itself. This happens so that old cells can make new cells. These new cells need to copy the genome in order to successfully inherit the same genetic traits.

If DNA was not replicated, the cell cycle would stop, and cells would die.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What does DNA stand for? Structure, function, types, replication