The Molecules of Life

All living organism pass information from one generation to the next with genetic material containing the information needed to construct a complete organism. The number of genes vary from organism to organism.

The gene is the unit of genetic infomation. More complex organisms require a greater number of genes to perform life functions. A gene does not function autonomously, but relies upon other cellular components for its function.All cellular activities obey the known laws of physics and chemistry.

What are genes made of?

All genes regardless of the type of organism are made of the same basic building blocks called nucleic acids. These nucleic acids combine to form long strands know as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). There are four different types of DNA adenine (A), cytosine (C), thymine (T), Guanine (G)

A C G
GifVRMLPDB GifVRMLPDB GifVRMLPDB

T DNA
GifVRMLPDB GifVRMLPDB


DNA is almost a universal genetic material. All know living organisms and many viruses have DNA as their genetic material. Some viruses however, use an alternative nucleic acid, know as ribonucleic aicd (RNA).

What do genes do?

Each gene codes for a different protein. The relationship between a sequence of DNA and the sequence of the corresponding protein is know as the genetic code. Protein synthesis is the process by which cells make protein using genetic information.

Proteins are used to build and repair body parts. All parts of your body contain protein e.g., blood, muscles, brain, skin, and hair.


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For more advanced reading refer to:

The Molecules of Life: Craig D. Livingstone and Martin E. Noble

DNA: The Molecule of Life"

Protein:Life's Workhourse

Find out how protein structures are determined

Proteins: The Primary Molecules of Life, Clark University