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Nucleic acid is the general term for both DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (Ribonucleic acid). It is a biomolecule found in all living organism that stores genetic information which is transferred from parents to their offspring from one generation to another.The major cause of the resemblance between parents and their children are information stored in the nucleic acid.  Nucleic acid is made up of monomers called nucleotides. 


Composition of nucleotides

Nucleotides are made up of three major components:

  1. 5- Carbon sugar
  2. Phosphate functional group.
  3. Nitrogenous bases

5-Carbon sugar

This includes the 5 – carbon (pentose) sugar such as deoxyribose (found in DNA) and ribose (found in RNA).

Phosphate functional group

The phosphate group connects the pentose sugar found in one nucleotide to the pentose sugar in another nucleotide.

Nitrogenous bases

These are aromatic nitrogen containing molecular components of nucleic acid that serves as proton acceptor. The nitrogenous bases in nucleic acid include:

  • Purine bases
  • Pyrimidine bases

Purine bases include adenine and guanine while the pyrimidine bases include cytosine, thymine (in DNA only) and uracil (in RNA only).

Differences between the DNA and RNA

Deoxyribose nucleic acid Ribose nucleic acid
Structurally contains deoxyribose sugar Structurally contains ribose sugar
It has double helix structure It does not have double helix structure
It is thermo-stable It is thermo-labile

All eukaryotes and most prokaryotes have DNA as their main genetic material. However, some retrovirus such as Human immunodeficiency virus and flavivirus such Zika virus have RNA as their genetic material while viruses such as Hepatitis B virus, Herpes simplex virus and small pox virus have DNA as its genetic material.


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