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Model showing supercoiling of DNA, Cambridge, before 1988

We are normally used to seeing DNA modelled as a double helix. This model shows the ‘supercoiling’ of DNA. Supercoiling means that the double helix structure has become twisted into a tighter coil, storing the genetic material in a very small space. It can twist in a clockwise or an anticlockwise direction. The model was made by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University.

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Glossary: model - representation

Use for a scaled representation of an object or structure, usually three-dimensional. The item is often idealised or modified to make it conceptually easier to understand.

Glossary: DNA

DNA stores the information, or blueprints, of every cell and is located in the genes. It is made up of two strands which form a double helix that is linked by hydrogen bonds. It was first described in 1953 by Francis Crick and James Watson.

Glossary: supercoiling

A form of DNA where the double helix is twisted further around itself. This generally occurs in nature to allow the DNA to condense into living cells.