Genomes: Unlocking Life’s Code | Natural History | SI Minerals and Gems

In the summer of 2014 I visited the Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. All of the museums within the Smithsonian complex in D.C. are free by the way. The Genome exhibit is a traveling one. It left San Diego’s Reuben H. Fleet Science Center January 4th and is currently in San Jose, California, moving to various destinations around the country.

Here are a few words as a mini refresher course, to familiarize yourself with the difference between a gene and a genome…well, I can speak for myself. I needed to familiarize myself! 🙂

A gene is the basic unit of heredity with phenotypic effects on the body. A gene is a very small section or subset of a genome. A genome contains genes which are packaged in chromosomes. A chromosome may have thousands of genes. A gene consists of various codons, which sequence nucleotides, coding a protein. Every single codon codes an amino acid.

Many amino acids put together form a protein.

In most living things, the genome is made of a chemical called DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, which is the molecule that encodes the instructions for life. A gene is a piece of DNA which codes the polypeptide chain. Every codon within a gene consists of a base-pair. A base-pair consists of the two opposite nucleotides on the double helix of DNA. The DNA molecule consists of two strands that wind around each other like a twisted ladder. Each strand has a backbone made of alternating sugar (deoxyribose) and phosphate groups. Attached to each sugar is one of four bases–adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), or thymine (T). The two strands are held together by hydrogen bonds between the bases, with adenine forming a base pair with thymine, and cytosine forming a base pair with guanine.

DNA, adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine

DNA composed of base-pairs: adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine

A genome contains all of the genetic material for building, running and maintaining an organism – the sum total of all of the genes present within the chromosomes of an individual species – within a single cell.

The genome is divided into chromosomes, chromosomes contain genes and genes are made of DNA.

Here’s a more sophisticated rendering of the structure of the double helix of DNA.

 

DNA, double helix

The structure of the DNA double helix

The Human Genome Project Information Archive 1990-2003 is a valuable source of information on the subject.

What continues to fascinate me, is what the exhibit demonstrates from the very start, comparisons of genome sizes among different organisms. It seems logical, that the more sophisticated the organism, the longer the genomes, right? Well, not so.

The Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code exhibit shows this promptly as you enter.

genome size, amoeba genome, barley genome, human genome

The Genome size of Amoeba is > than that of a grain of Barley which is > than that of a Human Genome

 

 

 

This graph below from the site link below illuminates the same information visually. (Looking at the actual numerical sizes within a graph further down the page of this link is more difficult to comprehend, because the numerical values are so small that they are like reading another language!) How Big are Genomes

Weizmann, genome size, organisms.

Weizmann graph illustrating the various sizes of genomes among different organisms.

It continues to surprise me!

These pictures capture the essence of the exhibit Genomes: Unlocking Life’s Code. This link to the left reveals a great deal of information about the subject.

Here’s more information presented by the National Human Genome Research Institute: All About The Human Genome Project (HGP)

You can view archives and depth about the subject Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code project presented through http://www.genome.gov/smithsonian/

I also visited a neighboring exhibit located in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum; the Eberly Minerals and Gems Gallery. Here are a few pictures.

All located within the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. – free to the public!! Right on!

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Advertisements

About carolkeiter
Aspiring writer, artist, musician and composer who was born and raised in the United States and has resided in several European countries. Communication is my forte; both through using various tools and in approaching people of divers backgrounds to gather information. Speak conversational - advanced intermediate - French, German and Spanish. Love interacting with people in cultural centers as much as going to remote places to learn more about the different creatures that share our planet. Love of the outdoors and of a variety of outdoor sports. Driven to learn and expand my own consciousness and understanding through curiosity and love of life. Creative skills merge with analytical ones, leading to an interest in a myriad of topics; ranging from politics, economics, science to environmental. Motivated to use my art, music and writing to support and educate people towards humane practices that support and respect all of life, including practices supporting a healthy planet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: