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Chemical difference between DNA and RNA

Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA is a molecule that is made up of two polynucleotide chains. These chains are coiled to form a complex double helix structure. It carries genetic instructions for the development, functionality, growth, and reproduction of all living organisms. The two strands of double-stranded DNA store the same biological information. This information is replicated as and when the two strands separate. DNA contains the sugar deoxyribose, phosphates and a unique sequence of the nitrogenous bases Adenine (A), Guanine (G), Cytosine (C), and Thymine (T).

Ribonucleic acid or RNA is a type of polymeric molecule (polynucleotide). Its biological roles include functions such as coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. Ribonucleic acid is an important nucleotide with long chains of nucleic acid present in all living cells. RNA contains ribose sugar, phosphates as backbones, and nitrogenous bases such as Adenine (A), Guanine (G), Cytosine (C), and Uracil (U). DNA and RNA share a common set of nitrogenous bases A, G, and C.

Difference Between DNA & RNA

Deoxyribonucleic acid and Ribonucleic acid share similarities in their molecular structure, but there are significant differences that can be noted between the polynucleotides -

Parameters DNA RNA
Acronym Deoxyribonucleic acid Ribonucleic acid
Definition It is a polynucleotide consisting of deoxyribose sugar and phosphate backbone with bases such as adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine It is a polynucleotide consisting of ribose sugar and phosphate backbone with bases such as adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil
Structure Double stranded complex double helix structure Single stranded single helix structure
Function It carries genetic instructions on development, form, functionality, growth, reproduction, and making new organisms. Storing genetic information It carries the genetic codes and performs decoding of the code from the nucleus into the ribosomes in order to generate protein
Generation Self-Replication Synthesized from DNA
Location Nucleus and Mitochondria of the cell Cytoplasm, nucleus and the Ribosome of the cell
Length DNA is longer than RNA, up to several centimeters RNA is variable length; however, it is not longer than DNA
Nitrogenous bases Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Thymine Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Uracil
Pairing Adenine-Thymine and Cytosine-Guanine Adenine-Uracil and Cytosine-Guanine
Other compositions 2 deoxyribose sugar, phosphate backbone Ribose sugar, phosphate backbone
Stability Stable in Alkaline condition Reactive in Alkaline condition
Sensitivity DNA is vulnerable to ultraviolet light RNA is resistant to ultraviolet light

Significance of DNA

DNA molecules are very long strands of protein. Long and narrow structures do not fit into cells without having them packed into an enclosure. Thus, the DNA strands are tightly wound to form chromosomes. Therefore, each chromosome contains a single DNA strand with replicated nitrogenous bases. In the human cell, there are 23 chromosomes within the enclosure of the nucleus. For comparison, a chicken’s DNA consists of 39 chromosomes whereas a pig’s DNA consists of 38 chromosomes.

Significance of RNA

Decoding genetic information and converting them into proteins in the ribosome is essential as proteins play an important role in the functioning of living organisms, proteins act as a catalyst to various chemical reactions within the living system. These chemical reactions take place within the cells in order to maintain their structure and regulate the speed of the internal functioning. In plants these functions include photosynthesis and in animals, it includes respiration and so on. Essentially, life forms cannot function reliably without the generation of protein.

Types of DNA

There are three major types of DNA -

  • A-DNA: It is a right-handed double helix similar to the B-DNA form and has the broadest helical diameter compared to other DNA forms.
  • B-DNA: This is the most common DNA conformation and is a right-handed helix. It is notable for containing 10 nitrogenous base pairs per turn.
  • Z-DNA is a left-handed DNA where the double helix winds to the left in a zig-zag pattern. The zig-zag pattern is due to the sugar-phosphate linkage in alternate forms. It exists at locations with high salt concentration.

Types of RNA

The classification of RNA is based on the encoding of its own gene -

  • Messenger RNA (mRNA): This type of RNA encodes the amino acid sequence of a polypeptide.
  • Transfer RNA (tRNA): As the name suggests, it brings amino acids to ribosomes during translation.
  • Ribosomal RNA (rRNA): It produces ribosomes with the ribosomal proteins that are organelles responsible for the translation of the mRNA.
  • Small nuclear RNA (snRNA): It is known to form complexes with help of proteins that are used in RNA processing in eukaryotes.



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