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DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).

The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people. The order, or sequence, of these bases determines the information available for building and maintaining an organism, similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet appear in a certain order to form words and sentences.

DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix. The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.

An important property of DNA is that it can replicate, or make copies of itself. Each strand of DNA in the double helix can serve as a pattern for duplicating the sequence of bases. This is critical when cells divide because each new cell needs to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell.
Bonobos may be more closely linked to anatomy of human ancestors, study finds

Bonobos may be more closely linked to anatomy of human ancestors, study finds

Newly discovered molecule plays central role in appetite control mechanisms

Newly discovered molecule plays central role in appetite control mechanisms

Arizona State University earns 14 NSF early career faculty awards

Arizona State University earns 14 NSF early career faculty awards

NETRF announces $4 million in collaborative grants to study neuroendocrine tumors

NETRF announces $4 million in collaborative grants to study neuroendocrine tumors

Researchers discover new mechanism of epigenetic inheritance in fruit flies

Researchers discover new mechanism of epigenetic inheritance in fruit flies

Maternal grandmother’s smoking in pregnancy increases risk of ASD in grandchildren

Maternal grandmother’s smoking in pregnancy increases risk of ASD in grandchildren

Unstable chromosomes in lung tumors increase risk of cancer relapse, study reveals

Unstable chromosomes in lung tumors increase risk of cancer relapse, study reveals

Researchers take important step toward using transplanted fetal cells to treat liver failure

Researchers take important step toward using transplanted fetal cells to treat liver failure

Study underscores need for genetic screening to improve safety of experimental stem cell treatments

Study underscores need for genetic screening to improve safety of experimental stem cell treatments

Study provides new insights on molecular mechanisms that impair muscle stem cells during aging

Study provides new insights on molecular mechanisms that impair muscle stem cells during aging

Epigenetic changes detectable at birth linked to risk of obesity

Epigenetic changes detectable at birth linked to risk of obesity

Researchers discover genes linked to resilience against brain pathologies

Researchers discover genes linked to resilience against brain pathologies

Person's brain age could help identify risk of functional decline and mortality

Person's brain age could help identify risk of functional decline and mortality

Research shows how TET2 protein loss can open door for mutations that drive blood cancers

Research shows how TET2 protein loss can open door for mutations that drive blood cancers

Whole-exome sequencing may routinely miss detecting some disease-causing genes, say researchers

Whole-exome sequencing may routinely miss detecting some disease-causing genes, say researchers

Brain genes influence our eating habits, study finds

Brain genes influence our eating habits, study finds

Study shows how brain genes influence food intake and dietary preferences

Study shows how brain genes influence food intake and dietary preferences

Researchers discover cancer-fighting properties in beta blockers

Researchers discover cancer-fighting properties in beta blockers

Researchers show how fish oil component helps in survival of injured retina, brain cells

Researchers show how fish oil component helps in survival of injured retina, brain cells

Mice study yields important clues about protective role of Clostridia strains

Mice study yields important clues about protective role of Clostridia strains