Saturday, October 16, 2010

What a way to go

You are now living in the 3-D space you have created. Stand in the bucket, and as you hold hands with the matching letter of our alphabet, A=T, C=G, you are in the middle of our double helix. Looking up, the buckets go on and on into to space. Looking down, the buckets go on and on into space. You are at the business end of the DNA molecule. You are at the end of a "single" nucleotide. Keep this in mind as we continue our adventure. At any time you can move about your bucket arm (nucleotide base), into the five sided table (ribose sugar), or reach up or down to the phosphate group that holds the table (sugar) to the next phosphate group at the floor above, or below, depending on which direction you choose to look. Now just think, after the billion of years that it took to figure all this out, DNA has the task of keeping us going. From one generation to the next, DNA is passed down, 1/2 from the moms, and 1/2 from the dads. This requires the DNA to do two things. The first is to duplicate itself when needed. The second is to direct the making of proteins so that our bodies can form and function correctly. Seems pretty simple if you put into these terms, but has you can see the miracle of life is far from simple. The basic premise is that the more stable the molecule, the more likely it is to survive the test of time. Nitrogen is the most resistant to radiation, and when the nitrogenous base is tucked inside it's double helix, it is most resistant to ultraviolet radiation. How neat that these very facts help keep the messages that DNA carry most stable.

Now standing inside your bucket, you are at the center of one cell's universe. Trillions and trillions of cells carry out their daily activities under the directions contained in this DNA. When you let your hands go, (release the hydrogen bond) the bucket on the other side is released and the double helix can begin to "unzip". It unzips along the codons reading each codon (three buckets in a row) until it gets the entire message it needs to make the protein it is directed to make. This entire message is called a gene! Only one side of the double helix is used to give directions for making proteins (called protein synthesis), and the other side is use to duplicate itself. (called replication) Read one side, duplicate one side. What a way to go.

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