Structure Of Nucleic Acids

The intrinsic parts of nucleic acids are more complex, being threefold aggregates of purine and pyrimidine bases, sugar, and phosphoric acid. The number of "building blocks," however, is much smaller, being six altogether, and in the great majority of cases, only four. Depending on the characteristic of the sugar and on the presence of uracil in place of thymine, two kinds of nucleic acid—ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxynucleic acid (DNA)—are defined.

The component unit, which can be thought of as analogous to an amino acid in a peptide chain, is base—sugar—phosphate and the linkage is by the phosphate to two sugars in a stepwise pattern, as follows:

base base

A combination between a base and a sugar (ribose or de-oxyribose) is called a nucleoside. When this is combined with a phosphate, it becomes a nucleotide. The important separate bases, six in number, are listed in Table 3, with their structural formulas. These, together with their sugar and phosphate complements, are linked into enormous molecules having molecular weights in the millions. The structure of nucleic acids is becoming understood and bringing with it an advance in molecular biology. The actual coupling among base sugar, and phosphate is shown in terms of the structural formula in Figure 6. This coupling permits the formation of a simplified double helix.

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