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Exploring The Double Helix of DNA

20 November 2020

Description: DNA and RNA are two very important molecules that nature uses to maintain life. In this activity, we will look at these molecules using free software called Jalview that is developed by research scientists at the University of Dundee.


Event Content

Note: Jalview has a web site https://www.jalview.org/school-resources that contains the workbook and videos.

Looking into DNA and RNA

DNA and RNA are two very important molecules that nature uses to maintain life. In this activity, we will look at these molecules using free software called Jalview that is developed by research scientists at the University of Dundee.

You Will Need

A desktop or laptop computer with a web browser and internet access.

Introduction to DNA and RNA

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is made up of two very long strands arranged in a spiral. The helix resembles a spiral staircase, where the steps of the staircase are made up of 4 different bases called adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). The order of these bases carries the genetic codes for life. DNA contains all the instructions that a living organism needs to grow, reproduce and function.

RNA (ribonucleic acid) is a single strand molecule. The RNA strands are much shorter than DNA and its fourth base is uracil (U) not thymine (T). RNA is responsible for taking the genetic code within DNA and using it to make proteins.

Why is RNA just as cool as DNA? Join the Amoeba Sisters as they compare and contrast RNA with DNA and learn why DNA should be sharing the limelight!

If RNA and DNA were sisters, DNA would be the popular one with a very distinct look. She would be at the top of the class because she knows so much. Whilst RNA would be the quiet, hardworking one, not easily recognised, but the person who you can rely on to make thing happen.

Introduction to Jalview

Jalview is a free computer program that is used to view the sequences and 3D structures of DNA, RNA and proteins. Jalview can read files directly from public biological databases and has a number of analysis tools for aligning sequences, producing trees and comparing structures.

Activity: Looking into DNA and RNA

Worksheet 1 views a short fragment of DNA in Jalview, then colour the nucleotide bases in the sequence and examine its 3D structure.

Additional Activity: DNA Origami

The aim of this activity is to create a paper model of a DNA double helix by downloading a template from https://www.yourgenome.org/activities/origami-dna

DNA has a double helix structure, much like a spiral staircase, it has two single strands that join and twist together. The ‘steps’ of the staircase are made up of the four bases of DNA called adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). They bind together in complementary pairs (A with T, C with G).



Summary

DNA and RNA molecules play important roles in maintaining life. DNA contains the instructions that animals and plants need to live, whilst RNA takes those instructions and uses it to make proteins.

This 3D animation shows how proteins are made in the cell from the information in the DNA code.

From DNA to protein - 3D (by Your Genome)

Why biologists need bioinformatic software such as Jalview is explored in the video below.

Bioinformatics and Big Data

Please visit the Jalview’s Schools webpage for more information about using Jalview to visualise DNA, RNA and proteins (https://www.jalview.org/school-resources).

Further activities can are available in the Visualising DNA, RNA and proteins in Jalview School workbook.

week2 Life Sciences and Human Biology (Week 2) Online

Sponsor: University of Dundee.

Ages: All Ages.

Also See: Looking into DNA and RNA

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