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Christmas Tree Genes (2021)

In 2021 I started experimenting with new ways of visualising DNA sequence in artistic ways. This led to the development of a method to draw DNA sequence as single line drawings. DNA is essentially a string of bases, so in these drawings the sequence of bases is drawn as coloured dots connected by a single line in order from start to finish of the sequence. A bit like dot-to-dot drawings the line eventually makes the picture.

This image called "Christmas Tree Genes" was created before Christmas 2021 and is one of my first attempts at a DNA line drawing. It actually contains two lines, both corresponding to genes from the Norway Spruce - one of several species of conifer that are commonly used as Christmas trees. I chose this species because it is the type of tree that sits in Trafalgar Square in London at Christmas time - the town where I grew up.

The 2 genes I chose (psbA and psbD) encode 2 chloroplast proteins that bind to chlorophyll, making up part of photosystem II. Importantly, these genes help the plant photosynthesise and make the Christmas tree its characteristic green colour.

In the image and the video below the DNA bases are drawn from the start to the end of the gene coding sequences as coloured dots (A = green, C = blue, G = yellow, T = red) joined by lines that vary in shades of green. Both genes are 1062 base pairs long and encode proteins of 353 amino acids in length.

This DNA line art is available in a number of different formats from Redbubble using the link below.


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