Bacterial and Human DNA
Country: United States
Date: October 2007
Is the structure of bacterial DNA is the same as humans (I
mean is it a double helix?). If it is a double helix, why the
hydrogen bonds between nitrogen containing bases doesn't breakdown
in bacteria living in 95 degrees C or above? Human DNA unwinds and
becomes single strand when heated above 70 dergees C ( i.e. in
polymerase chain reaction).
All DNA in life is similar in structure, but there are some differences.
Some organisms chemically modify their DNA for various reasons, for example.
Bacterial and human DNA are both double-helical. Bacterial DNA is typically
in the form of plasmids, a circular form of double-stranded DNA. Human DNA
is in a linear form.
PCR uses enzymes from a type of bacterium that can live up to 80C. The
enzymes (not the whole bacterium) remain functional at the higher
temperature cycles of PCR, 95C. The bacterium would not survive for a long
period of time at 95C, but PCR doesn't use the whole bacterium, just its
There is a third type of organism, archaeans, which are neither eukaryotes
(like humans), nor true bacteria. Some archaeans can survive up to 121C --
autoclave temperatures. I am not sure we know all the adaptations they have
for high temperature. I would speculate these organisms wrap proteins around
their DNA (or their DNA around proteins) to prevent the DNA from denaturing
in this extreme temperature, or it may also coil its DNA in a way to limit
its denaturation. Archaeans are not the source of enzymes used in PCR.
Hope this helps,
Good Question! Thermophilic organisms tend to have DNA with more GC base
pairs than organisms living at more moderate temperatures. GC base pairs
are held together by 3 Hydrogen bonds while AT base pairs contain only 2
Hydrogen bonds. Synthetic DNA consisting of only GC base pairs does not
denature until the temperature is around 90 degrees C.
Ron Baker, Ph.D
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