Image credit: Genome Research Limited

In this activity, learners discover how genes encode proteins, using a codon wheel and protein profiles.

A bit like a recipe book, all the biological instructions for making an organism are contained in a long molecule called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). All living things, from humans and mice, to plants and bacteria, have a unique set of instructions written in the four chemical letters of DNA: A, T, C and G. DNA sequence is converted into a string of amino acids that form a protein.

There are 20 different amino acids and the order and combinations of amino acids that make up a protein determine the protein’s unique function in the body.

In this activity, learners will use a code cracker wheel to decode sequences of DNA into protein sequences. Then, using protein profile cards they will find out what these proteins do by matching our sequences to the protein sequences on the cards. The activity can be carried out individually or in teams of four.