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DNA Replication: Process with Diagrams

Jul 8, 2022

What is DNA Replication?

If you are wondering, what is DNA replication then the answer is that it is one of the most astounding things that DNA can perform. Each cell carries all the DNA required to create the other cells. It starts with a single cell and ends up with billions of cells. And throughout the cell division process, all the data in a cell must be replicated properly. As a result, DNA is a molecule that can be copied to produce almost perfect duplicates. 

Definition of DNA Replication 

The method by which the genome’s DNA is duplicated in cells is known as DNA replication. Before dividing, a cell must copy its whole genome so that each ensuing daughter cell has its full genome.


Why does DNA Replicate?

DNA is the genetic substance that gives each cell its identity. Biomolecules and organelles must be replicated and distributed across the cells before a cell replicates and divides into new daughter cells via mitosis or meiosis. DNA must be copied within the nucleus to guarantee that each daughter cell obtains the right amount of chromosomes. DNA replication is the process of duplicating DNA. 

Replication occurs in a series of DNA replication processes, including numerous proteins known as replication enzymes and RNA. DNA replication steps occur during the cell cycle in eukaryotic cells such as animal cells and plant cells during the S phase of interphase. DNA replication is essential for cell development, maintenance, and fertilisation in organisms.


The Structure of DNA

structure of DNA

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid molecule. It comprises a phosphate, a deoxyribose sugar with five carbons, and a nitrogenous base. Double-stranded DNA comprises two spiralling nucleic acid strands twisted together to form a double helix structure.


This twisting makes DNA more compact. DNA is folded into tightly packed structures called chromatin to integrate within the nucleus. During cell division, chromatin condenses to produce chromosomes. The chromatin loosens before the DNA replication steps, allowing cell replication machinery accessibility to the DNA strands.

The above-given DNA replication diagram explains the structure of DNA.


Now that you know what is DNA replication, let’s take a closer look at the steps of DNA replication.

 Steps of DNA Replication 

Step 1: Formation of Replication Forks

Formation of Replication Forks


Before DNA can be reproduced, it must first be “unzipped” into two single strands. Adenine (A), cytosine (C), thymine (T), and guanine (G) are the four nucleotides that form pairings between the two strands of DNA. Adenine only binds to thymine, while cytosine only binds to guanine.

These connections between base pairs must be disrupted for DNA to unwind. This is done by an enzyme called DNA helicase. DNA helicase dissolves the hydrogen bonds between base pairs to segregate the strands into a Y-shaped replication fork. This location will serve as the starting point for replication.


Both DNA strands are directed, as shown by 5′ and 3′ ends. This notation indicates which side group is connected to the DNA backbone. A phosphate (P) group is coupled to the 5′ end, whereas a hydroxyl (OH) group is attached to the 3′ end. This directionality is critical for replication because it only moves from 5′ to 3′. The replication fork is two-way. 

  • The leading strand is directed from 3′ to 5′ 
  • The lagging strand is orientated from 5′ to 3′ 

The two sides are reproduced using two distinct methods to account for the directional difference.


Refer to the DNA replication diagram given above for a better understanding.

Beginning of DNA Replication Process

Step 2: Primer Binding

The first strand is the easiest to imitate. After the DNA strands have been divided, a primer, a short piece of RNA, attaches to the 3′ terminus of the strand. As the beginning point for replication, the primer always binds. The enzyme DNA primase creates primers.

DNA Replication: Elongation

Step 3: Elongation 

The new strand is created by enzymes called DNA polymerases through a process known as elongation. There are five main kinds of DNA polymerases in bacteria and human cells. Polymerase III is the principal replication enzyme in bacteria such as Escherichia coli, while polymerase I, II, IV, and V are in charge of error checking and repair. DNA polymerase III attaches to the strand at the primer location during replication and commences by adding extra base pairs corresponding to the strand.

The major polymerases involved in DNA replication in eukaryotic cells are delta, alpha, and epsilon. Because replication on the leading strand happens in the 5′ to 3′ direction, the newly produced strand is continuous.

The lagging strand initiates replication by attaching too many primers. Each primer is barely a few bases apart. The Okazaki fragments are subsequently added to the strand between the primers by DNA polymerase. Because the freshly produced pieces are disconnected, the replication process is discontinuous.

Step 4: Termination 

After forming both the continuous and discontinuous strands, an exonuclease enzyme eliminates all RNA primers from the original strands. After that, the primers are replaced with the proper bases. Another exonuclease check removes and replaces any flaws in the freshly produced DNA.

Another enzyme known as DNA ligase connects Okazaki fragments to produce a single united strand. Because DNA polymerase can only add nucleotides in the five ′ to 3′ direction, the ends of the linear DNA offer a challenge.

The extremities of the father strands are made up of repetitive DNA sequences known as telomeres. Telomeres serve as protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, preventing them from merging with neighbouring chromosomes.

Telomerase is a kind of DNA polymerase enzyme that catalyses the synthesis of telomere sequences at the ends of DNA. When finished, the parent and complementary DNA strands coil into the characteristic double helix structure. Finally, replication generates two DNA molecules containing one strand from the parent molecule and one new strand.

Enzymes Responsible for Replication

DNA replication process would not be possible without enzymes that catalyse several phases in the replication process. The following enzymes are involved in the eukaryotic DNA replication process:

DNA helicase 

As it proceeds with the DNA, it unwinds and splits double-stranded DNA. Dissolving hydrogen bonds among nucleotide pairs in DNA generates the replication fork.

DNA primase 

It is an RNA polymerase that produces RNA primers. Primers are small RNA molecules that serve as templates for the replication of DNA.

DNA polymerases 

These enzymes add nucleotides to the leading and lagging DNA strands to create new DNA molecules.


It is also known as DNA Gyrase. It is a protein that rewinds and unwinds the DNA strands to keep them from getting knotted.


These are a bunch of enzymes that remove the bases of nucleotides from the terminus of DNA chains.

DNA ligase 

It forms phosphodiester linkages between nucleotides to connect DNA fragments.

DNA Replication Process in Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes

eukaryotic & prokaryotic


DNA replication occurs in the following locations in prokaryotes:

  • At the replication origin, the two strands of DNA unravel.
  • Helicase opens the DNA, allowing replication forks to develop.
  • Single-strand binding proteins wrap the replication fork with DNA to inhibit DNA rewinding.
  • Topoisomerase inhibits DNA supercoiling.
  • Primase is responsible for the production of RNA primers. These primers work in tandem with the DNA strand.
  • After the primers, DNA polymerase III begins to add nucleotides.
  • The leading and trailing strands continue to grow in length.
  • After removing the primers, the spaces are refilled with DNA Polymerase I and encased with ligase.


Eukaryotic DNA replication is analogous to prokaryotic DNA replication. However, the initiation mechanism in eukaryotes is more complicated than in prokaryotes. There are several replication sources in eukaryotes. With the help of additional initiator proteins, a pre-replication compound is formed.

The procedure is the same, but the enzymes employed are not. In eukaryotes, for example, the enzyme Pol performs the polymerisation process, whereas, in prokaryotes, it is carried out by DNA Pol III.

Refer to the above-given DNA replication diagram for clarity.


DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) replication is the process by which identical DNA helices are produced from a single double-stranded DNA molecule. Each molecule comprises a strand from the original molecule and a new strand. The DNA uncoils, and the strands separate before replication. A replication fork is produced, which acts as a replication template. Primers attach to DNA followed by the addition of new nucleotide sequences from 5′ to 3′ by DNA polymerase.

This inclusion is constant in the leading strand but discontinuous in the trailing strand. After the DNA strands have been elongated, they are examined for mistakes and repaired, and telomere sequences are inserted into the ends of the DNA.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What is the replication process?

A: The method by which a double-stranded DNA molecule is duplicated to form two identical DNA molecules is known as replication. DNA replication is one of the most fundamental processes within a cell.

2. Where does DNA replication take place?

A: The atom’s nucleus

DNA replication occurs in eukaryotic cells’ nuclei and prokaryotic cells’ nucleoid regions. Animal and plant cells are examples of eukaryotic cells, including a nucleus and membrane-bound organelles. Eukaryotic cells contain their DNA in the nucleus, so DNA replication happens there.

3. What exactly is the significance of replication?

A: In the empirical sciences, replication is amongst the most significant strategies for verifying findings. Any study must be replicated by other researchers before its conclusions can be relatively well established. Replicability lends credence to scientific research findings.


DNA Replication


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