Our goal is to better understand, at a theoretical level, the database aspects of DNA computing. Thereto, we introduce a formally defined data model of so-called
sticker DNA complexes
, suitable for the representation and manipulation of structured data in DNA. We also define DNAQL, a restricted programming language over sticker DNA complexes. DNAQL stands to general DNA computing as the standard relational algebra for relational databases stands to general-purpose conventional computing. The number of operations performed during the execution of a DNAQL program, on any input, is only polynomial in the
of the data, i.e., the number of bits needed to represent a single data entry. Moreover, each operation can be implemented in DNA using a constant number of laboratory steps. We prove that the relational algebra can be simulated in DNAQL.