Key Idea 2: Organisms inherit genetic information so that there is continuity of structure and function between parents and offspring.
Organisms from all kingdoms posses a set of instructions (genes) that determines their characteristics. These instructions are passed from parents to offspring during reproduction. Students are familiar with simple mechanisms related to the inheritance of some physical traits in offspring. They are now able to begin to understand the molecular basis of heredity and how this set of instructions can be changes through recombination, mutation, and genetic engineering.
The inherited instructions that are passed from parent to offspring exist in the form of a code. This code is contained in DNA molecules. The DNA molecules must be accurately replicated before being passed on. Once the coded information is passed on, it is used by a cell to make proteins. The proteins that are made become cell parts and carry out most functions of the cell.
Throughout recorded history, humans have used selective breeding and other biotechnological methods to produce products or organisms with desirable traits. Our current understanding of DNA extends this to the manipulation of genes leading to the development of new combinations of traits and new varieties of organisms.