Key Vocabulary

Amino acid
The building blocks of protein.

Base pair
A pair of nucleic acids in DNA; A always pairs with T and C always pairs with G.

Codon
A triplet of bases on the RNA that codes for a specific amino acid. There are 64 different codons. Some of them code for the same amino acid.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
The chemical structure that contains genes.

Double helix
The structure of DNA. The best way to visualize this is not as a twisted ladder, but as a spiral staircase.

Enzyme
A type of protein that catalyzes (speeds up) a reaction. Many different types of enzymes play key roles in DNA replication, transcription, and translation.

Genes
Specific sequences of DNA that code for a specific protein. Genes are also responsible for coding for specific characteristics. For instance, genes control whether a person has brown hair or black hair.

Genome
The entire collection of an organismâ??s genes. For a human that means about three billion bases pairs containing 30,000-40,000 genes.

Helicase
An enzyme that unwinds DNA like a zipper.

Human Genome Project
The international effort to completely map the human genome.

Mutation
Any sort of change in the DNA.

Nucleic Acid
Commonly referred to as bases, these molecules are what vary in the DNA sequence. The nucleic acids that are used in DNA are adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. They are commonly abbreviated to as A, T, C, and G.

Nucleotide
The chemical building blocks of DNA. They consist of a nucleic acid, a sugar, and a phosphate group.

Protein
A series of amino acids linked together through peptide bonds. Proteins govern almost of the processes that occur in the body.

Ribonucleic acid (RNA)
The chemical structure similar to DNA that is manufactured using DNA. RNA is made up of nucleotides, but it has a different sugar, and it has a single helix structure.

Ribosome
The structure in the cytoplasm that translates RNA into protein.

Sickle Cell Anemia
A genetic disease that is caused by a single base pair substitution and causes red blood cells to sickle.

Transcription
The process of forming RNA from DNA. During this process thymine is replaced by uracil, another nucleic acid. RNA and DNA have some other chemical difference as well.

Translation
The process of forming a protein from an RNA sequence. In essence, this process involves taking the language of nucleotides of DNA and converting it into the language of amino acids or proteins.