Many students studying DNA structure do not understand or cannot fully visualize the concepts of complementarity, antiparallel, and the organization of the 5’ and 3’ ends of a nucleotide strand. Here, a method that works very well to get students actively involved in the process of describing a DNA molecule is described.   Students themselves are used as the nucleotides in this activity.

Modeling Concepts of 5', 3', Antiparallel, and Complimentarity in DNA Structure (PDF)

 

Intended Audience

K-4

 

5-8

 

9-12

X

 

Learning Objectives

After completing this activity, students will be able to:

  1. describe and diagram DNA structure using the following words: complementary and antiparallel.
  2. describe the components of a nucleotide.
  3. label a nucleotide’s 5’ and 3’ end.
  4. label the ends of a string diagram of DNA with 5’ and 3’, knowing one of the ends of one of the strands.
  5. diagram a complementary strand of DNA given the other strand.

 

Student Background

Students should have prior knowledge about DNA’s role as the genetic material and about the double-helical nature of the DNA molecule. General knowledge about the process of DNA replication, transcription, and translation is also helpful. Additionally, students should:

  • be able to identify the sugar, phosphates, and base of a nucleotide.
  • understand why the carbons of organic molecules are numbered.
  • be familiar with Chargaff’s rules.
  • be able to explain hydrogen bonding and base pairing.

 

Keywords

DNA structure, Nucleotide, Purine, Pyrimidine, Antiparallel, Complementarity, 5’ (five prime), 3’ (three prime), Chargaff’s rules

 

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