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Do Bacteria Cells Have DNA?

Do Bacteria Cells Have DNA?
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  • 0:02 Definition & Purpose of DNA
  • 1:18 Prokaryotes Versus Eukaryotes
  • 2:30 DNA in Bacteria
  • 4:01 The Power of Plasmids
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

Bacteria are single-celled organisms known as prokaryotes. As such simple life forms, do they have any need for genetic information in the form of DNA? Find out more in this lesson, as you learn about chromosomal loops and plasmids.

Definition and Purpose of DNA

Within a family, there are often traits that parents and their kids have in common. You may be told that you have your mother's nose. A daughter might be born with a head of curls that came from her father. Or perhaps, you were born with red hair, a trait only carried recessively by your parents. At any rate, all characteristics about a person, from hair color to body type, are determined by genes passed down by their mother and father, and this blueprint of information is found on a very important molecule: DNA.

DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid. This molecule contains all information for the development of every living thing. Of course, you may say, a being as complex as a human must have this important molecule. However, did you know that even the most simple single-celled life form has DNA?

Yes, we are talking about a bacteria. Although fairly rudimentary, bacterial DNA makes it possible for colonies of bacteria to reproduce and spread. And spread they do - often multiplying at a mind-blowing rate. In this lesson, we will examine bacterial DNA and understand its role in these tiny creatures.

Prokaryotes vs. Eukaryotes

When we talk about bacteria and DNA, are we talking about inherited traits? Not exactly. Because bacteria reproduce asexually, this is not a situation in which a tiny bacteria family is marveling at what that their little ones got from mom or dad. Like in cloning, bacteria only inherit exactly what the parent cell had. However, just like in humans, DNA is there for replication and reproduction.

Before we examine the DNA, we must first address the fact that bacteria are made of a completely different type of cell than organisms such as plants and animals. Bacteria are prokaryotes, while other living things, like plants and animals, are eukaryotes. What's the difference?

Prokaryotes are a very simple type of cell, often referred to as one of the very first life forms. Inside them, we find nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) and some other macromolecules, such as phospholipids, proteins, and sugars. Eukaryotic cells, on the other hand, are complex cells chock full of organelles designed to do many jobs to keep the cell running smoothly.

DNA in Bacteria

Prokaryotic cells contain DNA that is, as you probably guessed, much simpler than that of our own cells. DNA found in eukaryotes is a complex twisted double helix molecule full of genes that determine everything about a living thing. In contrast, do bacteria need DNA full of genes that will determine their hair and eye color, skin type, or future as an athlete? Of course not. Accordingly, the DNA is found in two basic forms: a chromosomal loop and ring-like plasmids.

The chromosomal loop is literally a looping string of DNA. Since there is no true nucleus in a prokaryotic cell, the DNA is suspended in cytoplasm, or the fluid filling the cell. You can imagine the chromosomal loop as a tangled necklace held in a lovely gelatin mold. This loop of genetic instructions provides information for that particular type of bacteria so that it can replicate and reproduce. Most bacteria reproduce by simply splitting in half, a process known as binary fission.

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