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A comparison of RNA and DNA's helix structure

DNA vs. RNA – A comparison chart

Comparison

DNA

RNA

Full NameDeoxyribonucleic Acid

Ribonucleic Acid

Function

DNA replicates and stores genetic information. It is a blueprint for all genetic information contained within an organism.

RNA converts the genetic information contained within DNA to a format used to build proteins, and then moves it to ribosomal protein factories.

Structure

DNA consists of two strands, arranged in a double helix. These strands are made up of subunits called nucleotides. Each nucleotide contains a phosphate, a 5-carbon sugar molecule and a nitrogenous base.

RNA only has one strand, but like DNA, is made up of nucleotides. RNA strands are shorter than DNA strands. RNA sometimes forms a secondary double helix structure, but only intermittently.

Length

DNA is a much longer polymer than RNA. A chromosome, for example, is a single, long DNA molecule, which would be several centimetres in length when unravelled.

RNA molecules are variable in length, but much shorter than long DNA polymers. A large RNA molecule might only be a few thousand base pairs long.

Sugar

The sugar in DNA is deoxyribose, which contains one less hydroxyl group than RNA’s ribose.

RNA contains ribose sugar molecules, without the hydroxyl modifications of deoxyribose.

Bases

The bases in DNA are Adenine (‘A’), Thymine (‘T’), Guanine (‘G’) and Cytosine (‘C’).

RNA shares Adenine (‘A’), Guanine (‘G’) and Cytosine (‘C’) with DNA, but contains Uracil (‘U’) rather than Thymine.

Base Pairs

Adenine and Thymine pair (A-T)

Cytosine and Guanine pair (C-G)

Adenine and Uracil pair (A-U)

Cytosine and Guanine pair (C-G)

Location

DNA is found in the nucleus, with a small amount of DNA also present in mitochondria.

RNA forms in the nucleolus, and then moves to specialised regions of the cytoplasm depending on the type of RNA formed.

ReactivityDue to its deoxyribose sugar, which contains one less oxygen-containing hydroxyl group, DNA is a more stable molecule than RNA, which is useful for a molecule which has the task of keeping genetic information safe.RNA, containing a ribose sugar, is more reactive than DNA and is not stable in alkaline conditions. RNA’s larger helical grooves mean it is more easily subject to attack by enzymes.
Ultraviolet (UV) SensitivityDNA is vulnerable to damage by ultraviolet light.RNA is more resistant to damage from UV light than DNA.

What are the key differences between DNA and RNA?

There are five areas where DNA and RNA differ:

Function





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Unusual types of DNA and RNA

Z-DNA


DNA polymerase, an DNA processing enzyme, may produce Z-DNA after doing its job regulating gene expression.

A-DNA

Triplex DNA

In addition, triplex-forming oligonucleotides can bind conventional two-stranded DNA, which helps guide agents that modify DNA to specific genomic locations.Human DNA (H-DNA) is a triple-stranded DNA molecule that stimulates genome mutations.

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