I Need Insights Into RNA Vs DNA – Comparison, Functions, Structure, Reactivity and Key Differences

Question

RNA is means ribonucleic acid while DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. No doubt, RNA and DNA carries genetic information and are linear polymers, consisting of sugars, phosphates and bases.

They are perhaps the most important molecules in cell biology, responsible for the storage and reading of genetic information that underpins all life. However, it is important to also mention that there exists key differences that separates these two molecules.

These distinctions enable the two molecules to work together and fulfill their essential roles. Here, we look at 5 key differences between DNA and RNA. Before we delve into the differences, we take a look at these two nucleic acids side-by-side.

This is a comparison of the differences between DNA Vs RNA, including a quick summary and a detailed table of the differences.

RNA vs DNA  Comparison

While both DNA and RNA are used to store genetic information, there are clear differences between them. This table summarizes the key points:

 

Comparison DNA RNA
Name DeoxyriboNucleic Acid RiboNucleic Acid
Function Long-term storage of genetic information; transmission of genetic information to make other cells and new organisms. Used to transfer the genetic code from the nucleus to the ribosomes to make proteins. RNA is used to transmit genetic information in some organisms and may have been the molecule used to store genetic blueprints in primitive organisms.
Structural Features B-form double helix. DNA is a double-stranded molecule consisting of a long chain of nucleotides. A-form helix. RNA usually is a single-strand helix consisting of shorter chains of nucleotides.
Composition of Bases and Sugars deoxyribose sugar
phosphate backbone
adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine bases
ribose sugar
phosphate backbone
adenine, guanine, cytosine, uracil bases
Propagation DNA is self-replicating. RNA is synthesized from DNA on an as-needed basis.
Base Pairing AT (adenine-thymine)
GC (guanine-cytosine)
AU (adenine-uracil)
GC (guanine-cytosine)
Reactivity The C-H bonds in DNA make it fairly stable, plus the body destroys enzymes that would attack DNA. The small grooves in the helix also serve as protection, providing minimal space for enzymes to attach. The O-H bond in the ribose of RNA makes the molecule more reactive, compared with DNA. RNA is not stable under alkaline conditions, plus the large grooves in the molecule make it susceptible to enzyme attack. RNA is constantly produced, used, degraded, and recycled.
Ultraviolet Damage DNA is susceptible to UV damage. Compared with DNA, RNA is relatively resistant to UV damage.

 

What are the key differences between DNA and RNA?

Functions

DNA encodes all genetic information, and is the blueprint from which all biological life is created. And that’s only in the short-term. In the long-term, DNA is a storage device, a biological flash drive that allows the blueprint of life to be passed between generations.
RNA functions as the reader that decodes this flash drive. This reading process is multi-step and there are specialized RNAs for each of these steps. Below, we look in more detail at the three most important types of RNA.

What are the three types of RNA?

  • Messenger RNA (mRNA) copies portions of genetic code, a process called transcription, and transports these copies to ribosomes, which are the cellular factories that facilitate the production of proteins from this code.
  • Transfer RNA (tRNA) is responsible for bringing amino acids, basic protein building blocks, to these protein factories, in response to the coded instructions introduced by the mRNA. This protein-building process is called translation.
  • Finally, Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) is a component of the ribosome factory itself without which protein production would not occur.

Sugar

Both DNA and RNA are built with a sugar backbone, but whereas the sugar in DNA is called deoxyribose (left in image), the sugar in RNA is called simply ribose (right in image). The ‘deoxy’ prefix denotes that, whilst RNA has two hydroxyl (-OH) groups attached to its carbon backbone, DNA has only one, and has a lone hydrogen atom attached instead. RNA’s extra hydroxyl group proves useful in the process of converting genetic code into mRNAs that can be made into proteins, whilst the deoxyribose sugar gives DNA more stability4.
The Chemical Structures of Deoxyribose (left) and Ribose (right) Sugars
          The Chemical Structures of Deoxyribose (left) and Ribose (right) Sugars

Bases

The nitrogen bases in DNA are the basic units of genetic code, and their correct ordering and pairing is essential to biological function. The four bases that make up this code are adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). Bases pair off together in a double helix structure, these pairs being A and T, and C and G.  RNA doesn’t contain thymine bases, replacing them with uracil bases (U), which pair to adenine1.

Structure

Whilst the ubiquity of Francis Crick and James Watson’s (or should that be Rosalind Franklin’s?) DNA double helix means that the two-stranded structure of DNA structure is common knowledge, RNA’s single stranded format is not as well known. RNA can form into double-stranded structures, such as during translation, when mRNA and tRNA molecules pair. DNA polymers are also much longer than RNA polymers; the 2.3m long human genome consists of 46 chromosomes, each of which is a single, long DNA molecule. RNA molecules, by comparison, are much shorter4.

Location

 

Eukaryotic cells, Animal and Plant cells, have majority of their DNA located in the nucleus

Eukaryotic cells, including all animal and plant cells, house the great majority of their DNA in the nucleus, where it exists in a tightly compressed form, called a chromosome. This squeezed format means the DNA can be easily stored and transferred. In addition to nuclear DNA, some DNA is present in energy-producing mitochondria, small organelles found free-floating in the cytoplasm, the area of the cell outside the nucleus.
The three types of RNA are found in different locations. mRNA is made in the nucleus, with each mRNA fragment copied from its relative piece of DNA, before leaving the nucleus and entering the cytoplasm. The fragments are then shuttled around the cell as needed, moved along by the cell’s internal transport system, the cytoskeleton. tRNA, like mRNA, is a free-roaming molecule that moves around the cytoplasm. If it receives the correct signal from the ribosome, it will then hunt down amino acid subunits in the cytoplasm and bring them to the ribosome to be built into proteins. rRNA, as previously mentioned, is found as part of ribosomes. Ribosomes are formed in an area of the nucleus called the nucleolus, before being exported to the cytoplasm, where some ribosomes float freely. Other cytoplasmic ribosomes are bound to the endoplasmic reticulum, a membranous structure that helps process proteins and export them from the cell.

Summary of Differences Between DNA and RNA

  1. DNA contains the sugar deoxyribose, while RNA contains the sugar ribose. The only difference between ribose and deoxyribose is that ribose has one more -OH group than deoxyribose, which has -H attached to the second (2′) carbon in the ring.
  2. DNA is a double-stranded molecule while RNA is a single-stranded molecule.
  3. DNA is stable under alkaline conditions while RNA is not stable.
  4. DNA and RNA perform different functions in humans. DNA is responsible for storing and transferring genetic information while RNA directly codes for amino acids and as acts as a messenger between DNA and ribosomes to make proteins.
  5. DNA and RNA base pairing is slightly different since DNA uses the bases adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine; RNA uses adenine, uracil, cytosine, and guanine. Uracil differs from thymine in that it lacks a methyl group on its ring.

Credit
Ruairi J MacKenzie – https://www.technologynetworks.com/genomics/lists/what-are-the-key-differences-between-dna-and-rna-296719
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