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DNA vs. Genes: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 2, 2024
DNA is the molecule that carries genetic instructions in living organisms. Genes are specific sequences of DNA that code for traits.

Key Differences

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a long molecule containing the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning, and reproduction of all known living organisms. Genes are segments of DNA that are coded with specific instructions to direct cells to produce particular proteins, influencing individual traits.
DNA is composed of two strands forming a double helix, with nucleotides containing bases adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. Genes are composed of specific sequences of these nucleotides in DNA and are located on chromosomes within the cell nucleus.
DNA is the material that is inherited from parents to offspring, carrying the genetic information of an organism. Genes are functional units of DNA that determine specific traits or characteristics through their expression as proteins.
DNA as a whole can vary widely among individuals, with these variations contributing to genetic diversity. Genes can undergo mutations, which are changes in their DNA sequence, leading to variations in the traits they control.
DNA serves as the blueprint for the organism, encompassing all genetic information. Genes are specific parts of this blueprint, each responsible for a particular function or trait in the organism.

Comparison Chart


The molecule carrying genetic instructions.
Segments of DNA coding for specific traits.


Double helix structure with nucleotides.
Specific sequences of nucleotides in DNA.


Carries genetic information of an organism.
Determine specific traits or characteristics.


Found in cell nuclei and mitochondria.
Located on chromosomes within DNA.


Variation contributes to genetic diversity.
Mutations lead to trait variations.

DNA and Genes Definitions


The fundamental and distinctive characteristics or qualities of someone or something, especially when regarded as unchangeable.
The DNA of a species defines its unique characteristics.


A part of a chromosome that controls or influences the appearance, growth, etc., of a living thing.
Genes play a crucial role in plant and animal breeding.


A molecule that contains the instructions an organism needs to develop, live, and reproduce.
DNA mutations can lead to evolution over generations.


A unit of heredity that is transferred from a parent to offspring and is held to determine some characteristic of the offspring.
Genes determine eye color in humans.


The self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes.
Scientists study DNA to understand genetic disorders.


A segment of DNA responsible for the physical and inheritable characteristics or phenotype of an organism.
Scientists have identified genes related to certain diseases.


A molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions.
DNA sequencing has revolutionized biological research.


A sequence of nucleotides in DNA or RNA that encodes the synthesis of a gene product, either RNA or protein.
Gene therapy aims to treat genetic disorders.


The carrier of genetic information in the form of a double helix.
DNA fingerprinting is used in forensic science.


The molecular unit of heredity of a living organism.
Researchers study genes to understand inherited traits.


A nucleic acid that carries the genetic information in cells and some viruses, consisting of two long chains of nucleotides twisted into a double helix and joined by hydrogen bonds between the complementary bases adenine and thymine or cytosine and guanine. DNA sequences are replicated by the cell prior to cell division and may include genes, intergenic spacers, and regions that bind to regulatory proteins.


A hereditary unit consisting of a sequence of DNA that occupies a specific location on a chromosome and is transcribed into an RNA molecule that may function directly or be translated into an amino acid chain. Genes undergo mutation when their DNA sequences change.


Alternative form of DNA


Plural of gene


Abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid; - more commonly used than the full name. See also RNA.


(biochemistry) a long linear polymer found in the nucleus of a cell and formed from nucleotides and shaped like a double helix; associated with the transmission of genetic information;
DNA is the king of molecules


What are genes?

Specific DNA sequences that code for traits.

How is DNA related to genes?

Genes are segments of DNA.

How do genes influence traits?

They code for proteins that determine traits.

Can genes be turned on and off?

Yes, through gene expression mechanisms.

Can genes exist outside of DNA?

No, genes are part of DNA.

What is DNA?

A molecule containing genetic instructions for living organisms.

What is DNA sequencing?

Determining the exact order of nucleotides in DNA.

Are genes responsible for all characteristics?

They contribute significantly, along with environmental factors.

How does DNA relate to evolution?

DNA mutations and variations contribute to evolutionary changes.

What role does DNA play in heredity?

It transmits genetic information from parents to offspring.

Do all organisms have DNA?

Almost all, with few exceptions like some viruses.

How many genes are in the human genome?

Approximately 20,000-25,000 genes.

How long is human DNA?

If stretched out, about 2 meters in each cell.

What is a gene mutation?

A change in the DNA sequence of a gene.

Is DNA the same in every cell of a body?

Yes, except for mutations.

Can DNA change over time?

Yes, through mutations and evolutionary processes.

Can genes be transferred between organisms?

Yes, in processes like genetic engineering.

Can we inherit genes from our grandparents?

Indirectly, as genes are passed down from parents.

What is the role of DNA in medicine?

Understanding diseases, developing treatments, and personalized medicine.

Are all genes active at all times?

No, gene expression varies based on many factors.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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