DNA is stored in the nucleus of each cell. It is wound up and coiled in butterfly-shaped chromosomes. We only actually see chromosomes in their distinct butterfly-shape right before the cells divide (this is called metaphase). Each chromosome is made up of one long DNA molecule. Each gene on the chromosome is a distinct segment of the DNA. The genes will code for the formation of proteins that will determine an organism's traits and characteristics. This is why we say that our DNA is our genetic map. Not all the genetic coding is for protein development. Some DNA coding affects regulation in the body or structural functions. And some coding has no function that we have found yet.
Collaborative consultation on website genetics and genomics from Dr. Stephen M. Carleton, Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn.