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nucleic acid

Tuesday 16 September 2003

Definition: A nucleic acid is a macromolecule composed of chains of monomeric nucleotides.

Monomeric nucleotides have three major parts:
- a five-carbon sugar,
- a phosphate group,
- a nitrogen-containing base.

- The sugar is either a ribose, forming RNA or a deoxyribose making DNA.
- The nitrogen containing base can be in the form a single or double carbon ring structure.

  • The single carbon ring structures, known as the pyrimidines, have three forms: cytosine and thymine, which are found in DNA, and uracil which is found only in RNA.
  • The double carbon ring structures, known as the purines, have two forms: guanine, and adenine.

The four different types of DNA nucleotides are then linked together, forming a large double-stranded molecule (deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA).

Each strand’s backbone consists of joined sugars and phospate groups of the adjacent nucleotides. The nucleotides are then connected to form a double-stranded molecule that twists helically, like a spiral staircase.

The DNA molecule is the carrier of all genetic material within the cell. It has a very basic structure in which large amounts of information can be stored by a simple arrangement of nucleotides.

Artificial nucleic acids

Artificial nucleic acids include:
- peptide nucleic acid (PNA),
- morpholino
- locked nucleic acid (LNA), as well as glycol nucleic acid (GNA) and threose nucleic acid (TNA).

Each of these is distinguished from naturally-occurring DNA or RNA by changes to the backbone of the molecule.

See also

- deoxyribonucleic acid