Friday, April 4, 2008

Chemical differences between DNA & RNA

Both RNA and DNA are composed of repeated units. The repeating units of RNA are ribonucleotide monophosphates and of DNA are 2'-deoxyribonucleotide monophosphates.

Both RNA and DNA form long, unbranched polynucleotide chains in which different purine or pyrimidine bases are joined by N-glycosidic bonds to a repeating sugar-phosphate backbone.

The chains have a polarity. The sequence of a nucleic acid is customarily read from 5' to 3'. For example the sequence of the RNA molecule is AUGC and of the DNA molecule is ATGC

The base sequence carries the information, i.e. the sequence ATGC has different information that AGCT even though the same bases are involved.

Consequences of RNA/DNA chemistry

The DNA backbone is more stable, especially to alkaline conditions. The 2' OH on the RNA forms 2'3'phosphodiester intermediates under basic conditions which breaks down to a mix of 2' and 3' nucleoside monophosphates. Therefore, the RNA polynucleotide is unstable.

The 2' deoxyribose allows the sugar to assume a lower energy conformation in the backbone. This helps to increase the stability of DNA polynucleotides. The following link shows 3-D models of the DNA and RNA nucleotides.

Cytidine deamination to Uridine can be detected in DNA but not RNA because deamination of Cytidine in DNA leads to Uridine not Thymidine. Uridine bases in DNA are removed by a specific set of DNA repair enzymes and replaced with cytidine bases.


RNA is structurally similar to DNA!

Both nucleic acids are sugar-phosphate polymers and both have nitrogen bases attached to the sugars of the backbone- but there are several important differences.

  • They differ in composition:
  1. The sugar in RNA is ribose, not the deoxyribose in DNA (as we previously learned).
  2. The base uracil is present in RNA instead of thymine.
  • They also differ in size and structure:
  1. RNA molecules are smaller (shorter) than DNA molecules,
  2. RNA is single-stranded, not double-stranded like DNA.
  • Another difference between RNA and DNA is in function. DNA has only one function-STORING GENETIC INFORMATION in its sequence of nucleotide bases. But there are three main kinds of ribonucleic acid, each of which has a specific job to do.

  1. Ribosomal RNAs-exist outside the nucleus in the cytoplasm of a cell in structures called ribosomes. Ribosomes are small, granular structures where protein synthesis takes place. Each ribosome is a complex consisting of about 60% ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and 40% protein.
  2. Messenger RNAs-are the nucleic acids that "record" information from DNA in the cell nucleus and carry it to the ribosomes and are known as messenger RNAs (mRNA).
  3. Transfer RNAs-The function of transfer RNAs (tRNA) is to deliver amino acids one by one to protein chains growing at ribosomes.

What is the difference between DNA and RNA?

DNA and RNA Introduction


The nucleic acids are informational molecules because their primary structure contains a code or set of directions by which they can duplicate themselves and guide the synthesis of proteins. The synthesis of proteins - most of which are enzymes - ultimately governs the metabolic activities of the cell. In 1953, Watson, an American biologist, and Crick, an English biologist, proposed the double helix structure for DNA. This development set the stage for a new and continuing era of chemical and biological investigation. The two main events in the life of a cell - dividing to make exact copies of themselves, and manufacturing proteins - both rely on blueprints coded in our genes.

There are two types of nucleic acids which are polymers found in all living cells. Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) is found mainly in the nucleus of the cell, while Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) is found mainly in the cytoplasm of the cell although it is usually synthesized in the nucleus. DNA contains the genetic codes to make RNA and the RNA in turn then contains the codes for the primary sequence of amino acids to make proteins.

Nucleic Acid Parts List:

The best way to understand the structures of DNA and RNA is to identify and examine individual parts of the structures first. The complete hydrolysis of nucleic acids yields three major classes of compounds: pentose sugars, phosphates, and heterocyclic amines (or bases).

Phosphate: A major requirement of all living things is a suitable source of phosphorus. One of the major uses for phosphorus is as the phosphate ion which is incorporated into DNA and RNA.

Pentose Sugars:

There are two types of pentose sugars found in nucleic acids. This difference is reflected in their names--deoxyribonucleic acid indicates the presence of deoxyribose; while ribonucleic acid indicates the presence of ribose.

In the graphic on the left, the structures of both ribose and deoxyribose are shown. Note the red -OH on one and the red -H on the other are the only differences. The alpha and beta designations are interchangeable and are not a significant difference between the two.

Heterocyclic Amines:

Heterocyclic amines are sometimes called nitrogen bases or simply bases. The heterocyclic amines are derived from two root structures: purines or pyrimidines. The purine root has both a six and a five member ring; the pyrimidine has a single six member ring.

There are two major purines, adenine (A) and guanine (G), and three major pyrimidines, cytosine (C), uracil (U), and thymine (T). The structures are shown in the graphic on the left. As you can see, these structures are called "bases" because the amine groups as part of the ring or as a side chain have a basic property in water.

A major difference between DNA and RNA is that DNA contains thymine, but not uracil, while RNA contains uracil but not thymine. The other three heterocyclic amines, adenine, guanine, and cytosine are found in both DNA and RNA. For convenience, you may remember, the list of heterocyclic amines in DNA by the words: The Amazing Gene Code (TAGC).


What's the difference between DNA and RNA?

Both DNA and RNA are composed of repeating units of nucleotides. Each
nucleotide consists of a sugar, a phosphate and a nucleic acid base.
The sugar in DNA is deoxyribose. The sugar in RNA is ribose, the same
as deoxyribose but with one more OH (oxygen-hydrogen atom combination
called a hydroxyl). This is the biggest difference between DNA and RNA.
Another difference is that RNA molecules can have a much greater variety
of nucleic acid bases. DNA has mostly just 4 different bases with a few
extra occasionally. The difference in these bases (between DNA and RNA)
allows RNA molecules to assume a wide variety of shapes and also many
different functions. DNA, on the other hand, serves as a set of directions
and that's about all (but that's absolutely necessary!). ---DrPam