Genetics is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms. It’s a discipline of biology and can be applied to the study of all living systems, from viruses and bacteria, through plants and domestic animals to humans. The modern science of genetics, which seeks to understand the process of inheritance, began with the work of Gregor Mendel in the mid-19th century.

The molecular basis for genes is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Genes correspond to regions within DNA, a molecule composed of a chain of four different types of nucleotides :

  • adenine (A)
  • cytosine (C)
  • guanine (G)
  • and thymine (T)

Genetic information exists in the sequence of these nucleotides. DNA exists as a double-stranded molecule, coiled into the shape of a double-helix. Each nucleotide in DNA  pairs with its partner nucleotide on the opposite strand: A pairs with T, and C pairs with G. Thus, in its two-stranded form, each strand contains all necessary information, redundant with its partner strand.

Genes are arranged linearly along long chains of DNA base-pair sequences. Eukaryotic organisms, which include plants and animals, have their DNA arranged in multiple linear chromosomes. These DNA strands are often extremely long; the largest human chromosome is about 247 million base pairs in length.

The full set of hereditary material in an organism (the combined DNA sequences of all chromosomes) is called the genome.