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Nucleic Acids

Nucleic Acids

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This lesson identify the structure and function of nucleic acids.

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Tutorial

What's Covered

Welcome to the lesson on Nucleic Acids. In this lesson you will learn about the structure and function of nucleic acids and the role they play in the body. Specifically, you will learn about:

  1. Overview of Nucleic Acids
  2. Nucleotides
  3. DNA
  4. RNA

1. Overview of Nucleic Acids

Nucleic acids are organic compounds; this means is that they contain the element carbon.

Term to Know

Nucleic Acid

Organic compound composed of nucleotides; this includes DNA and RNA.


2. Nucleotides

First, let’s focus on nucleotides; nucleotides are the building blocks of nucleic acids and are what compose nucleic acids, DNA and RNA.

Term to Know

Nucleotide

The building blocks of nucleic acids composed of a sugar, a phosphate group and a nitrogen base.

Below is a simple drawing of a nucleotide to help you see its structure.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 10.54.45 AM.png

Nucleotides are made up of a sugar, a phosphate group, and a nitrogen base. All nucleotides have this similar structure, but there are some differences between certain nucleotides. You’ll learn more about that when you focus on the structure of DNA and RNA a little bit more.

What you need to know is that nucleotides are the building blocks of nucleic acids and they contain a phosphate group, a sugar, and a nitrogen base.


3. DNA

Within our bodies, DNA contains all of our genetic information. All of our genes, all of the information about who we are is contained in our DNA.

Term to Know

DNA

Deoxyribonucleic acid; A nucleic acid that contains all the genetic information of an organism.

DNA has four nitrogen bases, adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine and within the structure of DNA the way that the nitrogen bases pair up is very specific. Adenine will always pair up with thymine and cytosine will always pair up with guanine. DNA is described as being a double helix. Take a look at the image of DNA below.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 10.55.05 AM.png

You’ll notice it is kind of like a ladder that's been twisted. The rungs of the ladder are composed of the nitrogen bases. The nitrogen bases that we have for DNA are adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. If you look at the image above, you can kind of see where the nucleotides are in the DNA structure, and how that allows DNA to look like it does. The DNA is made up of the phosphate group, deoxyribose sugar, and the nitrogen base. The sugar for DNA is deoxyribose sugar; that type of sugar is specific to DNA and they're bonded together by a hydrogen bond.

You'll notice in the image that you have the phosphates and the sugar making the outer part of the double helix. Then the rungs of the ladder, if you will, are made up of the nitrogen bases, bonded by hydrogen bonds.

You'll notice also DNA is double-stranded and this varies from RNA. DNA is different from RNA in the fact that it's double-stranded and it has different bases, as well as its sugar is a deoxyribose.


4. RNA

RNA does carry genetic information, but the genetic information it carries helps to build proteins for our body.

Term to Know

RNA

Ribonucleic Acid; a nucleic acid that produces proteins in cells.

RNA, rather than being double-stranded, is single-stranded; so it doesn't have the same structure as RNA does. The image below shows RNA as a single strand.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 10.55.23 AM.png

The sugar in RNA, rather than being a deoxyribose sugar, is just a ribose sugar. So in the nucleotides of RNA, the sugar would be a ribose sugar.

The nitrogen bases also vary a little bit in RNA as well. Rather than having adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine, it has adenine, uracil, cytosine, and guanine. The nitrogen bases vary a little bit as well. Instead of thymine, it has uracil.


Summary

So this has been an overview on the structure and function of nucleic acids. Specifically, you have learned more about nucleotides and compared DNA versus RNA.


Keep up the learning and have a great day!

Source: THIS WORK IS ADAPTED FROM SOPHIA AUTHOR AMANDA SODERLIND

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Nucleic Acid

    Organic compound composed of nucleotides; Includes DNA and RNA.

  • Nucleotide

    The building blocks of nucleic acids composed of a sugar, a phosphate group and a nitrogen base.

  • DNA

    ​Deoxyribonucleic acid; A nucleic acid that contains all the genetic information of an organism.

  • RNA

    ​Ribonucleic Acid; A nucleic acid that produces proteins in cells.