Got Your DNA in a Wad? Here’s Why

No offense, but I’ve noticed a lot of you act like you’ve got your DNA in a wad. Well, that’s perfectly natural – and I’m beginning to understand why.

Histones, for example, are proteins around which DNA coils. So clever how they assemble and interact with DNA. Groups of these coils link up with the help of other histones to form elegant compact structures, which in turn are assisted by other proteins to form compact zig-zag structures, which are again compacted with the help of other proteins, forming the chromatin that makes up chromosomes. The result of that complex repetitive coiling and folding is a structure that is 30,000 times shorter than the original DNA molecule. With this mind-boggling organization, DNA becomes short enough to fit in the nucleus of a cell, yet is still carefully controlled and organized – not just randomly wadded up and inaccessible when needed.

Man, I need some histones for all the information I’ve got scattered across my desk.

As we approach Thanksgiving, thank your lucky mutations for DNA and its brilliant set of organizing tools. And be sure to thank them for your eyes, your vocal chords, your taste buds, your circulatory system, and your otoliths — the tiny calcium carbonate particles in your ear that play a profound role in the human experience. The brilliance of these minute little accidents of random mutations in our wadded up DNA just makes my head spin.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

5 thoughts on “Got Your DNA in a Wad? Here’s Why

  1. You kill me, Jeff! 🙂
    Everyone gets the very limited and basic run down of DNA in jr. high and high school science classes. Even though I found it fascinating, I didn’t pursue the subject further in college.
    Then I got married and had my first child. When we learned that she had a very rare chromosomal syndrome, all of a sudden, genes, chromosomes and DNA once again became a fascinating subject for me.
    The brilliance behind the design and functionality of our bodies is worthy to be praised in so marvellous a way that we could never praise it enough.
    The human body is truly a temple, indeed. An incredible creation magnificently designed.

  2. That stuff all happened randomly. It just happened to form in the exactly shape and composition to make life work. Get with the program.

  3. Yeah, be grateful for your otoliths. My vestibular system is damaged because of a tumor that was growing in my middle ear. So when I have to turn my head, I feel like I’m in a rocking boat. If I’m walking I am at risk of falling flat on my face. I have learned that when I drive, although I often feel that I’m spinning every which way, I can usually trust what I see and the wheels will stay on the pavement.

  4. Note that the images you’re displaying are of DNA so tightly coiled, it doesn’t do does almost nothing in the cell.

    The image is of interphase / prophase of cell division: a short period prior to the final breakup. Thankfully, DNA coiled this tightly doesn’t last too long, but does occur in regular intervals

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