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Genetics: ‘junk’ DNA inherited from our ancient ancestors could rewire our brains, according to study



DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid – is widely known as the molecule found in the nucleus of all our cells that contains genetic information.

It is shaped like a double helix and is made up of small sections called nucleotides.

Each nucleotide contains a nitrogenous base, a sugar and a phosphate group.

The sugar component in this particular molecule is called deoxyribose and makes up the D in DNA.

This is a carbon-based cyclic chemical with five carbon atoms arranged like a pentagon.

At the second carbon atom there is a singular hydrogen atom attached in deoxyribose.

This may also have additional oxygen attached.

In this case, the oxygenated chemical then forms what is simply known as ribose, the R in RNA.

The deoxy prefix literally means without oxygen.

Form of RNA and DNA

RIbose can do almost everything deoxyribose can and also encodes genetic information in some cells and organisms.

When oxygen is present, it drastically alters the way chemicals bind and sit alongside other molecules.

When oxygen is present, in RNA, it can take a variety of forms.

When oxygen is not present in this specific location ̵

1; in the DNA – the molecule forms like the iconic double helix.

Uses of RNA

DNA is often broken down into RNA and read by cells to translate and transcribe the genetic code in order to make proteins and other molecules essential for life.

RNA uses three of the same base pairs as DNA: cytosine, guanine, adenine.

The other base pair, thymine, is exchanged in RNA for uracil.

RNA is also often found in simpler organisms, such as bacteria.

It is also often a virus, with hepatitis, influenza and HIV all forms of RNA.

Mitochondrial RNA

All animal cells use DNA, with one notable exception: mitochondria.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell and convert glucose into pyruvate and then into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) via the Krebs cycle.

This process is performed in this unique organelle in the cells and ATP is the universal form of energy and is used in every aerobic organism.

There is a small strand of RNA in the mitochondria which is unique to the animal kingdom.

It is transmitted exclusively from the mother (the father’s life in sperm but dissolves during fertilization) and allows humans to trace their maternal lineage over time.


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