Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a ubiquitous family of large biological molecules that perform multiple vital roles in the coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. Together with DNA, RNA comprises the nucleic acids, which, along with proteins, constitute the three major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life. Like DNA, RNA is assembled as a chain of nucleotides, but is usually single-stranded. Cellular organisms use messenger RNA (mRNA) to convey genetic information (often notated using the letters G, A, U, and C for the nucleotides guanine, adenine, uracil and cytosine) that directs synthesis of specific proteins, while many viruses encode their genetic information using an RNA genome.
Some RNA molecules play an active role within cells by catalyzing biological reactions, controlling gene expression, or sensing and communicating responses to cellular signals. One of these active processes is protein synthesis, a universal function whereby mRNA molecules direct the assembly of proteins on ribosomes. This process uses transfer RNA (tRNA) molecules to deliver amino acids to the ribosome, where ribosomal RNA (rRNA) links amino acids together to form proteins.
The chemical structure of RNA is very similar to that of DNA, but differs in three main ways:
Unlike double-stranded DNA, RNA is a single-stranded molecule in many of its biological roles and has a much shorter chain of nucleotides. However, RNA can, by complementary base pairing, form intrastrand double helixes, as in tRNA. While DNA contains deoxyribose, RNA contains ribose (in deoxyribose there is no hydroxyl group attached to the pentose ring in the 2' position). These hydroxyl groups make RNA less stable than DNA because it is more prone to hydrolysis. The complementary base to adenine is not thymine, as it is in DNA, but rather uracil, which is an unmethylated form of thymine. Like DNA, most biologically active RNAs, including mRNA, tRNA, rRNA, snRNAs, and other...
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