Molecular Biology: DNA

Explore the function, structure and relationships among DNA, proteins and amino acids in carrying out the work of cells.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • Bio.4.1.1 — Compare the structures and functions of the major biological molecules (carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and nucleic acids) as related to the survival of living organisms.
  • Bio.4.1.2 — Summarize the relationship among DNA, proteins and amino acids in carrying out the work of cells and how this is similar in all organisms.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will compare and contrast structure and function of carbohydrates, proteins and nucleic acids.
  • Students will summarize the process of protein synthesis.

Essential Vocabulary

  • DNA
  • RNA
  • Protein synthesis
  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Nucleic acid


Each student will participate in transcription and translation. Bring each student into the nucleus (front of the class). Give each a piece of paper they will hang around their necks that have one of the letters A C T or G on them. They have now become nucleotides. The students will then create a DNA double helix strand matching up the letters by holding hands across from each other.

One strand will then pull away from the other strand of DNA. Half of the students can then flip their cards over and become RNA (Uracil replaces Thymine). Then have the mRNA leave the nucleus and bind with the two subunits of a ribosome (two other students). The remaining students become tRNA and find the amino acids that match up with the three-person codon. As the process of mRNA binding to a ribosome is repeated, a protein is generated.


Students will watch the NC Science Now video Aspirin for the Future, and discuss or complete the questions on the attached PDF.


Students will access and read Biological Basis of Heredity: Molecular Level of Genetics and answer questions on the attached Biological Basis PDF worksheet.


Students will view the NC Science Now video Biologic Logic, read the accompanying blog "Medicines with Class" and discuss these questions:

  1. What is recombinant DNA technology? 
  2. How do researchers at Biogen “convince” cells to produce a therapeutic molecule?


Students will work in collaborative groups to write a 10-question quiz, create a two-minute animation or write a five-paragraph essay on one of the following topics:

  1. The structure and function of DNA, proteins and nucleic acids 
  2. The protein-synthesis process 
  3. The ways in which the videos included in this lesson plan discuss the potential medical applications of DNA and/or protein synthesis