Nucleic acids-DNA and RNA

Nucleic Acid- Types, Processes, Structure, and Differences


The body is home to nucleic acids, which are nucleotides. They consist of an organic base (RNA or DNA nucleobase), sugar and phosphate groups. Nucleotides that make up nucleic acids have specific roles to play in our bodies. We’ll examine more about nucleic acids in this guide, but if you wish to skip it all together, our professional writers for hire are ready to cover you for that assignment.

What is a nucleic acid?

A nucleic acid is a nucleotide polymer that is made up of nucleotides. They have roles in the synthesis and degradation of nucleic acids, protein synthesis, nucleoprotein complexes, transport, and energy metabolism.

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The Main Nucleic Acids Types

Two nucleic acid types occur naturally: deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). They are nucleotides with nucleobases. The three components of a nucleotide are:

  • Pentose Sugar(pentose five carbon sugar)
  • Nitrogenous base
  • Phosphate group.

Deoxyribonucleic Acid(DNA)

DNA is an RNA nucleotide with nucleobases, nucleosides, and nucleotides. It is essential in replicating nucleic acids, gene expression, and having a nucleic acid role in metabolism.

The DNA nucleobases are nucleotide subunits to nucleic acids. They have specific roles in catalysis, nucleic acid structure, and energy metabolism.

DNA nucleotides are nucleotide subunits of nucleic acids. Two nucleoside levels exist, and they are deoxyribonucleosides and ribonucleotides.

What’s the Structure of a DNA?

The DNA has a double helix structure with nucleotides for the nucleobases. Nucleic acid is a polymer that has nucleoside monomers that are linked together by phosphate nucleotides.

The nucleic acids nucleoside units have one of two nucleobases, adenine (A) or thymine (T). The DNA double helix structure is made of sugar and phosphate. A hydrogen bond binds together the nitrogenous bases.

Image: Nitrogenous bases

Ribonucleic Acid (RNA)

This nucleic acid is a nucleotide polymer that contains nucleobases, nucleosides, and nucleotides. It is involved in protein synthesis in the cells, information transfer, and has a massive role in nucleic acid metabolism.

What’s The Structure of an RNA?

Image: RNA Structure

A Ribonucleic Acid is made of nucleobases, nucleosides, and nucleotides, which have sugar and phosphate groups. They are held together by nucleobase- nucleotide interactions.

DNA makes an mRNA from a DNA copy with messenger RNA (mRNA) nucleotides on the DNA template strand. The nucleotides code for specific amino acids or nucleotide triplets that are the start of a protein.

The RNA nucleotides join together with nucleobases to form nucleotide base pairs. The base-pairing of RNA nucleotides is complementary. These nucleotides are separated by three nucleotides which is the length of a codon.

Types of RNA( mRNA, tRNA, rRNA)

Image: Types of RNAs

The different types of RNA are:

  • Messenger RNA

The messenger mRNA is the template used during the protein synthesis process. It comprises ribose nucleobases and nucleotide subunits, and two nucleoside levels. The nucleotides of messenger RNA are made of nucleobases(A, T, G) and sugar-phosphate group with nucleotide subunits in the nucleic acid.

Guanine nucleotides are nucleotide nucleobases found in nucleic acid, and they have a nucleoside nucleotide structure. The two nucleotides of guanine nucleotides are nucleobase-N(9)- phosphate group. The nucleotide subunits of guanine nucleotide are in the nucleic acid.

Guanine nucleotide has nucleotide at nucleoside-3′-monophosphate nucleotides, nucleotide-2′-deoxyribonucleotides and nucleobases nucleotide which is nucleoside-5′-monophosphate nucleotide.

Adenine nucleotide is a nucleotide nucleobase in nucleic acid. It’s in the nucleotide nucleobase-N(9)- phosphate group nucleotide. Another nucleotide called cytidine nucleotide forms when cytosine attaches to the ribose ring.

  • Transcription rRNA and tRNA

The tRNA translates information from the nucleic acids to protein. It attaches itself to the mRNA to form an amino acid chain.

The nucleotides of rRNA are nucleobases(A,C,G) nucleoside nucleotide nucleobase nucleotide nucleotides. They transfer genetic information from DNA to ribosomes.

Image: chromatids and ribosomes

You can check our other article for better visualization of the cell and its components

The Process of Protein Synthesis and its Regulation

Protein synthesis is a process by which cells build proteins. It occurs at the ribosomes and requires energy to function correctly. Proteins are essential building blocks of life because they form tissue, muscles, hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.

There are three stages of protein production: initiation, elongation, and termination. If any one of these steps does not occur correctly, it can lead to many mental disorders or cancerous growths!


The first amino acid is linked to a transfer RNA molecule, and an enzyme called methionine adenosyltransferase. Methionine adenosyl-transferase transfers methyl groups from ATP, which provides the energy needed for protein synthesis at all gene transcription stages. The resulting product will have one free end that acts as a template for the following steps.


Elongation is when amino acids are linked to each other in a chain by an amide bond forms between them. This process requires energy and occurs at the ribosome, where it binds with transfer RNA (tRNA).

The tRNA brings its specific amino acid group to attach to the ribosome and then moves to one of three sites on the mRNA. Amino acids are linked together by an amide bond that forms between them, thus elongating the protein chain.


This final step occurs when a stop codon tells the tRNA molecule where it needs to release its amino acid. The tRNA then moves to the next mRNA and releases its amino acid, forming a peptide bond with it, thus breaking up the protein chain formed in the elongation step.

What is DNA Replication?

It refers to the process in which nucleic acids are copied to make nucleic acid double strands. During DNA replication, nucleotides are added to the chains. The nucleic acids replicate during cell division, where one nucleic acid strand serves as a template.

This nucleic acid replication is known as semiconservative replication. This replication process results in two nucleic acid double strands with nucleotides.

The nucleic acid strands are duplicated with nucleotides(A, T, G) nucleobases.The following are the steps of DNA replication:

  1. The DNA helix opens at the replication origin site.
  2. The nucleic acid strands unwind at the replication origin site.
  3. A nucleotide is added to one of the nucleic acid strands at the replication origin site.
  4. One of the nucleic acid strands is used as a nucleic acid template.

For more definitions, check our guide and familiarize with the basic biochemical terms

Image : DNA replication

Benefits of DNA Replication

DNA replication is crucial because it prevents the organism’s DNA from becoming too thick. If all of an organism’s cells had identical genomes, then mutations in those genes would be more likely to go unnoticed and cause disease or death.

DNA replication also ensures that organisms have a backup copy of their DNA for when they need it. Imagine what might happen if the DNA of a human cell were replicated only once, and then that copy was damaged!

The DNA replication process also makes it possible for organisms to reproduce. When cells divide, they can’t just split in half and become two cells. Instead, each cell needs to make a copy of its DNA so that the new cells have their genomes.

The process starts with one parent strand of DNA uncoiling from a double helix and then building up nucleotides on both sides until it replicates the original strand.

This process is essential because organisms would have no genetic material to reproduce, or their DNA would become too thick and unusable without it. You can see how DNA replication affects all living things on Earth!

The Structural Levels of Nucleic Acids

Both DNA and RNA are structured in levels, namely: Primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary.

Primary Structure

The primary level addresses the nucleotides of the DNA and RNA nucleic acids. This level is about how the nucleotide bases are joined to each other by covalent bonds.

Nucleotides are made of two parts:

Nitrogenous Base- Each of the two primary nucleic acids has four nitrogenous bases. The four bases are thymine, guanine, adenine, and cytosine.

When the DNA uses the base Thymine ‘T,’ the RNA goes with Uracil ‘U.’ The bonding properties of the four bases vary and ensure no mix up in the way cells interact. However, Uracil and Thymine take similar roles due to the similarities in their structures.

Sugar-phosphate backbone-This component enables the nitrogenous bases to strung up. When a single sugar bonds with a phosphate, they form a single molecule. Many nucleotides string together and form the shape of a helix. The DNA has two strands that make the DNA double helix.

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Secondary Structure

Image: Secondary structure of nucleic acids

This structural level refers to the bonding between the hydrogen and nucleotide base. It also includes the different shapes that the two strands create while bonding.

Depending on the type of nucleic acid, the bonding process happens differently. Also, the bonding will vary depending on whether it happens between two strands or in a single strand. Sister monomers form a covalent bond, while complimentary bases on two strands form a hydrogen bond.

Nitrogenous bases on the same strand fully share electrons and form strong covalent bonds. The single elements are also part of the same molecule and are hard to break.

The hydrogen bonds formed by bases from different strands are weak and easy to break. The bases don’t share electrons; hence the hydrogen bonds can be disrupted by factors like acidity.

  • The double helix is the most common structure at the secondary level. It happens between two strands that are complementary to each other. Hydrogen bonds are formed as the strands intertwine. Other possible structures are:
  • A Stem-loop- It occurs when one RNA molecule folds and forms a hydrogen bond with itself.
Image : RNA stem loop
  • A four-armed structure-It happens when four strands of DNA or RNA form hydrogen bonds at different parts.

Some of these possibilities in the secondary structural level may help in controlling gene expressions. If a part of RNA or a gene is tangled, transcription enzymes may struggle to reach it, inhibiting its expression.

Tertiary Structure

Image : Nucleic acid tertiary structure

This level explains the different positions of atoms in DNA and RNA. Some of the main points to discuss in the tertiary structure are:

  • The length of helix turn. Nucleic acids have different lengths of helix turns.
  • Asymmetrical molecules may have identical parts and connectivity yet different effects. Just like hands, these molecules are not interchangeable.
  • Major and minor grooves vary in size. For instance, the major groove in the DNA double helix refers to the broader part between strands, while the minor groove is the narrow part.
  • The different angles at which nucleotides interact cause differences in the shapes of the helixes.
  • The number of nitrogenous base pairs in every turn determines the properties and the shape of the helix.

Quaternary Structure

Image: Quaternary structure of DNA

At this level are the large structures and shapes that DNA and RNA can form. The different shapes can influence the functionality of these nucleic acids.

Chromatids are examples of large DNA molecules used for transport and storage during mitosis or cell division. Other large molecules are ribosomes partially made of RNA.

Some ribozymes fall into the quaternary structure category. These must get a fitting substrate before catalyzing a reaction.

You may check our guide on the structures of other macromolecules to expand your knowledge on the topic!

The difference between DNA and RNA 

The differences between DNA and RNA are nucleobases, nucleosides, and nucleotides.

  • DNA has deoxyribose (2-deoxy-d-ribose) nucleobases, an aldehyde sugar, while RNA has ribose nucleobases, a ketone sugar.
  • DNA nucleotides are composed of nucleobases and nucleosides, while RNA is nucleotides.
  • Their enzymes are different in that DNA requires nucleoside nucleotide, while RNA requires nucleobase nucleotide.  
  • DNA is composed of deoxyribose sugars, whereas RNA is made up of ribose sugars.
  • DNA nucleotides have two nucleotides (A, T), while RNA nucleotides have three nucleotides (A, C, G).
  • The phosphate sugar in DNA is a pentose, while the one in RNA is ribose.
  • DNA is the genetic material carrier, while RNA is involved in protein synthesis.
  • The DNA remains in the nucleus while RNA leaves the nucleus at some point
  • DNA has the double helix, while the RNA usually has a single strand

Why do we need nucleic acids in our cells?

Image: Nucleic acids functions

Nucleic acids have various functions in the body, as discussed below:

  • Nucleic acid RNA is mainly involved in protein synthesis.
  • The nucleic acids are involved in nucleic acid metabolism, in which nucleic acids, proteins, and other macromolecules are produced.
  • Nucleic acids provide information and function during gene expression.
  • They are involved in ribonucleotide synthesis, nucleoside diphosphate synthesis.

Take Away

Understanding the basics of nucleic acids can help you better understand how the body operates. One way to get started is by looking at all three types, understanding their structures and functions, and then learning about protein synthesis.

Researching more about nucleic acids will also help you understand genetics and what makes living organisms different in structure and behavior. This may be a complicated subject matter, but it’s crucial to learn more about life from an evolutionary perspective. In case you are still in doubt regarding that assignment, place an order with us and our professional writers will be of help.

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