DNA, the source of genetic information in the human body is such an important part of a cell that understanding how it functions is a must for every biology student. And what could be a better way of understanding its dynamics than to build a DNA model that illustrates the key aspects?
Building a DNA model does not necessarily mean that you have to work from the scratch. While you can do so if you wish to, making use of some stuff that is readily available at home, but there are commercial kits that make the job much easier, entertaining and more useful from the learning point of view.
No matter how you decide to build your DNA model, there are certain characteristics that your model must display and there are a few questions that you must answer yourself before laying out the foundations of your DNA model.
The first thing you have to make sure that your DNA model complies with is the double helix structure of DNA. Each of these helices will basically have a spine running from the beginning to the end. Sugar, phosphate and nucleotide bases will all be added to this spine or backbone. Your DNA model needs to have two of these backbones, which also form the two strands of DNA and make sure that these strands run anti-parallel to each other.
This anti-parallel running of the two DNA strands results in the presence of major and minor grooves. Major groove occurs where the two backbones are distanced apart while the minor groove is located at the point where they are closer to each other. It is important for your DNA model to depict these grooves because interaction with the bases gets easier on the major groove side as then the backbones are not impeding.
The DNA has a flexible helix, which means there are curves and bends in its structure owing not only to thermal activity but the pressure from binding proteins too. Do not turn your DNA model into a plain linear model.
A very important aspect of any DNA model is the base pairing part. Your model must have one of the nucleotide bases attached to the sugar-phosphate bond. Also, the nucleotide bases must be paired in the right combination, i.e. Adenine with Thymine and Guanine with Cytosine.
There are a lot of other factors to consider before you finalize your DNA model, but the basic ones have been covered in this article.