At Perfect Day we make dairy protein with a twist — it doesn’t come from milk. Itdoesn’t come from a cow or any mammal at all. Instead, it comes from microflora called Trichoderma that convert sugar into a specific dairy protein of our choosing through the power of fermentation. Trichoderma has a long history of use in the manufacture of food ingredients.
But how do we get Trichoderma to make whey, a protein that historically could come only from a mammal’s milk? Obviously, there’s more to this story.
And the story starts with DNA. Every living thing on earth speaks a common language, and that language is deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. You’ve undoubtedly seen depictions of DNA’s iconic double-helix shape.
DNA carries the genetic instructions for the development, function, growth, and reproduction of all known organisms. The rungs on the double helix are made up of chemical pairs. There are just four chemicals, called bases, that make up the pairs.
These are cytosine, guanine, adenosine, and thymine — often shortened to simply C,G, A, and T. These chemicals bind to each other only in very specific combinations: C-G and G-C, A-T and T-A. The base pairs connect across the double helix, forming the inner rungs
On the outside of the helix, the base pairs link with sugars and phosphates. Taken together, these molecules — base, sugar, and phosphate — are called nucleotides. Nucleotides stack up along the helix and are arranged in three-letter sets called codons, each a formula for making a single amino acid.
You may remember from high school biology that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins serve all kinds of functions. Codons make individual amino acids; when you have a bunch of codons together, you have a gene, or a set of instructions that tell a cell how to build a protein — amino acid “block” by amino acid “block.”
The precise sequence of base pairs, that form the codons that comprise genes, which in turn instruct a cell to build proteins, is what we’re referring to when we use the term “genetic code.”
Put another way: if you think of DNA as a written language, it has just four letters (bases), arranged into three-letter words (codons), but the words can be combined in nearly infinite order to make instructional sentences (genes). (See figure below.)