DNA and RNA – Coding Life

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and many viruses. Along with RNA and proteins, DNA is one of the three major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life.

Genetic information is encoded as a sequence of nucleotides (guanine, adenine, cytosine, and thymine) recorded using the letters G, A, C, and T. Most DNA molecules are double-stranded helices (like the one shown), consisting of two long polymers of simple units called nucleotides, molecules with backbones made of alternating sugars (deoxyribose) and phosphate groups (related to phosphoric acid), with the nucleobases (G, A, C, T) attached to the sugars. DNA is well-suited for biological information storage, since the DNA backbone is resistant to cleavage and the double-stranded structure provides the molecule with a built-in duplicate of the encoded information.

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a ubiquitous family of large biological molecules that perform multiple vital roles in the coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. Together with DNA, RNA comprises the nucleic acids, which, along with proteins, constitute the three major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life.

RNA is constructed as a chain of nucleotides, and is a single-stranded structure. Using messenger RNA (mRNA), the genetic information is transmitted through a sequence of nucleotides similar to DNA. The complementary bases: guanine, adenine, uracil, and cytosine (notated using the letters G, A, U, and C) direct the synthesis of specific proteins.