2.4 – DNA Replication
2.4.1 – Explain DNA replication in terms of unwinding the double helix and separation of the strands by helicase, followed by formation of the new complementary strands by DNA polymerase
The first stage is when the DNA double helix unwinds. This is catalysed by the enzymes helicase, which causes the breaking of the hydrogen bonds between the base pairs. The two strands separate and are held apart. Both of the exposed strands are then copied. Free nucleotides in the nucleus are attached to their complementary base pairs on the parent strands. The strands are still antiparallel.
The hydrogen bonds reform and the sugar and phosphate on the free nucleotides condense to form the “backbone” on the new DNA molecules.
DNA polymerase is the enzyme that catalyses the reaction.
Along one strand of DNA, there are multiple replication forks. This allows the entire process of replication to occur more quickly.
2.4.2 – Explain the significance of complementary base pairing in the conservation of the base sequence of DNA
Complementary base pairing means that the new DNA strands are perfect copies of the original one. The complete genome of the organism is successfully copied. All the genes remain intact and are passed on to the next generation. Opposite pairs are attracted to each other, and their structure means that the DNA polymerase can “back check” for mistakes in replication. Adenine (A) and Thymine (T) will always bond, and Cytosine (C) and Guanine (G) will bond.
2.4.3 – State that DNA replication is semi-conservative
On every DNA double helix, one of the strands of DNA came from the parent chromosome. The other strand was newly synthesised during replication from the free nucleotides. Therefore, every time DNA replication occurs, half of the original molecule is conserved.