Life Sciences

Protein Production Line

This exhibit is a model of DNA, a molecule found in nearly all cells. DNA contains the code for inherited characteristics in living things. DNA's code controls these characteristics by directing the production of important molecules called proteins. Proteins are instrumental in almost everything living things do, from transporting substances to building the body's structural support. A DNA molecule consists of two strands that twist around each other. For DNA's code to be read and translated into the production of proteins, the two strands must be first "unzipped." This exhibit is a mechanical representation of the structure of DNA. Visitors turn a crank to unzip the strands, revealing colored areas. These areas represent sections of DNA called genes. The instructions to build one protein are encoded in a gene. DNA's code for making proteins works very much like language does. DNA is made up of sequences of smaller molecules called bases. Just as letters in the alphabet can be linked to convey information in words, the order of bases linked in DNA determine what proteins are coded for. There are four types of bases, or "letters," in DNA's alphabet: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C).