nucleic acidmedical dictionary

<biochemistry, molecular biology> Linear polymers of nucleotides, linked by 3', 5' phosphodiester linkages. In DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, the sugar group is deoxyribose and the bases of the nucleotides adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine. RNA, ribonucleic acid, has ribose as the sugar and uracil replaces thymine. DNA functions as a stable repository of genetic information in the form of base sequence. RNA has a similar function in some viruses but more usually serves as an informational intermediate (mRNA), a transporter of amino acids (tRNA), in a structural capacity or, in some newly discovered instances, as an enzyme.

The spontaneous loss of the amino groups of cytosine (yielding uracil), methyl cytosine (yielding thymine) or of adenine (yielding hypoxanthine). It can be argued that the presence of thymine in DNA in place of the uracil of RNA stabilises genetic information against this lesion, since repair enzymes would restore the GU base pair to GC.

This entry appears with permission from the Dictionary of Cell and Molecular Biology

(11 Mar 2008)