<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Nucleic acids

Nucleic acids are key macromolecules in the continuity of life. They carry the genetic blueprint of a cell and carry instructions for the functioning of the cell.

The two main types of nucleic acids are deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)    and ribonucleic acid (RNA)    . DNA is the genetic material found in all living organisms, ranging from single-celled bacteria to multicellular mammals.

The other type of nucleic acid, RNA, is mostly involved in protein synthesis. The DNA molecules never leave the nucleus, but instead use an RNA intermediary to communicate with the rest of the cell. Other types of RNA are also involved in protein synthesis and its regulation.

DNA and RNA are made up of monomers known as nucleotides . The nucleotides combine with each other to form a polynucleotide, DNA or RNA. Each nucleotide is made up of three components: a nitrogenous base, a pentose (five-carbon) sugar, and a phosphate group ( [link] ). Each nitrogenous base in a nucleotide is attached to a sugar molecule, which is attached to a phosphate group. DNA nucleotides contain the sugar deoxyribose and one of the four bases adenine (A),thymine (T),guanine (G), or cytosine (C). RNA nucleotides contain the sugar ribose and one of the four bases A,uracil (U),G,or C.

Structure of a nucleotide.
A nucleotide is made up of three components: a nitrogenous base, a pentose sugar, and a phosphate group.

Dna double-helical structure

DNA has a double-helical structure ( [link] ). It is composed of two strands, or polymers, of nucleotides. Each strand is formed with bonds between phosphate and sugar groups of adjacent nucleotides (called a phosphodiester bond). The two strands are bonded to each other at their bases with hydrogen bonds, and the strands coil about each other along their length, hence the “double helix” description, which means a double spiral.

Double helix of DNA.
The double-helix model shows DNA as two parallel strands of intertwining molecules. (credit: Jerome Walker, Dennis Myts)

The alternating sugar and phosphate groups lie on the outside of each strand, forming the backbone of the DNA. The nitrogenous bases are stacked in the interior, like the steps of a staircase, and these bases pair; the pairs are bound to each other by hydrogen bonds. The bases pair in such a way that the distance between the backbones of the two strands is the same all along the molecule.

Section summary

Living things are carbon-based because carbon plays such a prominent role in the chemistry of living things. The four covalent bonding positions of the carbon atom can give rise to a wide diversity of compounds with many functions, accounting for the importance of carbon in living things. Carbohydrates are a group of macromolecules that are a vital energy source for the cell, provide structural support to many organisms, and can be found on the surface of the cell as receptors or for cell recognition. Carbohydrates are classified as monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides, depending on the number of monomers in the molecule.

Lipids are a class of macromolecules that are nonpolar and hydrophobic in nature. Major types include fats and oils, waxes, phospholipids, and steroids. Fats and oils are a stored form of energy and can include triglycerides. Fats and oils are usually made up of fatty acids and glycerol.

Proteins are a class of macromolecules that can perform a diverse range of functions for the cell. They help in metabolism by providing structural support and by acting as enzymes, carriers or as hormones. The building blocks of proteins are amino acids. Proteins are organized at four levels: primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. Protein shape and function are intricately linked; any change in shape caused by changes in temperature, pH, or chemical exposure may lead to protein denaturation and a loss of function.

Nucleic acids are molecules made up of repeating units of nucleotides that direct cellular activities such as cell division and protein synthesis. Each nucleotide is made up of a pentose sugar, a nitrogenous base, and a phosphate group. There are two types of nucleic acids: DNA and RNA.

Questions & Answers

information for blood vessels
Sumit Reply
helps pump blood through body
scott
arteries carry blood away from the heart while veins return it to the heart
Reverian
veins have thinner outer walls because blood pressure in them is very low compared to arteries with thicker outer walls to withstand the higher blood pressure.
Oliver
cell, tissue, organ, organism, organ system,
Gheida Reply
please what are the characteristics of a good respiratory system?
Salomon Reply
thin wall ,a moist inner surface ,a huge combined surface area and a rich blood supply.
Nchimunya
Help me am confused what is the cell membrane as a partially permeable membrane
Janelle Reply
it is the ability of a molecules to cross a cell membrane depending on their both size and chemical properties.
Andrews
Based on my previous understanding of biological systems, a cell membrane is a semi-permeable membrane made up of a phospholipids bi-layer. The polar head consisting of phosphate and the hydrophobic end made up of lipids.
Abayomi
Smallest bone of rabbit is
Sahrukh Reply
difference between catebolism and anebolism
Anthvanath Reply
identify the causes of infertility in human beings
Rodrick Reply
Describe how a healthy pregnancy could be maintained
Rodrick
Huaman largest bone
Sahrukh
How I can test DNY
Salamin Reply
Samllest bone
Sahrukh
How can I determine my child
AlfredOfficial Reply
by DNA tests
lasford
thanks
AlfredOfficial
How to test
Salamin
How many bones of 1 year childrean
R.k Reply
208
Rani
A baby's body has about 300 bones at birth. These eventually fuse (grow together) to form the 206 bones that adults
Manali
Somebudy seys me 300
R.k
A baby's body has about 300 bones at birth. These eventually fuse (grow together) to form the 206 bones that adults h
Manali
I ask you about beby bones
R.k
i cann't say about 1 year baby's bones bt on birth baby has 300 bones
Manali
Ok thank you goodnight
R.k
good night
Manali
have a sweat dream
Rani
it's 300 bones because it a baby
Jasper
babies have 300 bones in which it fuses to become 206 as an adult.
Andrews
it has 300 bones ,nchimunya
Nchimunya
figure of male reproduction
Rani Reply
front view of male reproductive system
Rani
front view of male reproductive system
Rani
what is Actin? I don't understand this definition
Rhonda Reply
Actin is a family of globular multi-functional proteins that form microfilaments. 
Lauren
difference between throat and lyrnx
Lone
what is the difference between a vaccine and a antiserum
Silver Reply
An antiserum contains antibodies already produced and is used to pass on immune responses. A vaccine contains a substance that stimulates the production of antibodies to create an immune response.
Nana
A vaccine a preparation of antigens for one (or more) diseases that is given to stimulate active immunity and protect against the disease (s). while an antiserum either neutralizes the "infection " or stimulates your immune system to attack an infection.
Oliver
what is deoxyribonucleic acid
Carlene Reply
A negatively charged molecule; polymer of nucleotides found in the nucleus of a cell ... DNA.
Abayomi
guys u needs your help i am in this conversation but i don't understand what you guys were talking about please i need your help.
Asali
Hi
Janelle
hi
Oliver
hello
Rani
how are you doing?
Jasper
DNA is genetic material which is present in cell DNA is made up of nitrogen base,phosphate group and pentose sugar.
Manali
hi
Jasper
give a front view of male reproductive system
Rani
to maintain certain biological activities of cell
jeeni Reply

Get the best Human biology course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Human biology. OpenStax CNX. Dec 01, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11903/1.3
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Human biology' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask