DNA vs. RNA: What's the Difference?

Life on earth is diverse, from complex multicellular animals and plants to single-celled protozoans. However, at the molecular level, the life of every microorganism consists of similar building blocks – RNA and DNA.

What RNA Is

As per the Eurofins Genomics blog, RNA (ribonucleic acid) is a big molecule made from a single DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) strand. Among its major responsibilities is to transfer instructions required to produce proteins.

Although deoxyribonucleic acid has commands on how to produce proteins, ribonucleic acid provides those instructions to ribosomes that serve as protein factories.

You see, deoxyribonucleic acid doesn’t actually leave the nucleus. Instead, the nucleus builds RNA that has copies of deoxyribonucleic acid’s instructions.

What DNA Is

DNA is basically a molecule consisting of two polynucleotide chains. The coils form a double helix that carries genetic commands from every living organism's reproduction, growth, functioning, and development. Those two strands have the same information that is replicated when two strands separate.

So both RNA and DNA are genetic molecules and are closely related to the extent that they need each other so as to work well. But still, they have some differences, which are clearly highlighted through the following:

1.      Sugar

Both RNA and DNA have a sugar backbone. But sugar in deoxyribonucleic acid is referred to as deoxyribose, whereas sugar in ribonucleic acid is called ribose.

The deoxy’ preface basically denotes that, while ribonucleic acid has two -OH (hydroxyl) groups attached to the carbon backbone, deoxyribonucleic acid only has hydroxyl and one hydrogen molecule connected to it instead.

The extra hydroxyl group in RNA proves helpful when converting genetic code into mRNA, which can get converted into proteins, whereas deoxyribose sugar makes DNA more stable.

2.      Function

DNA is similar to computer chips or flash drives with all the details required to produce proteins and conduct cellular processes.

It should pass on this information to new cells to ensure the process is carried out in the same way. This blueprint is important to life continuity.

On the other hand, RNA is the same as decoders as it produces a copy of the drive and then relays instructions to the entire cells. This consists of complex steps with various kinds of ribonucleic acid delivering dissimilar processes. Three major kinds of ribonucleic acid include:

  • rRNA (ribosomal RNA)
  • tRNA (transfer RNA)
  • mRNA (messenger RNA)

3.      Stability

Deoxyribose sugar in every DNA is less reactive due to C-H bonds, making it more stable in alkaline conditions. Deoxyribonucleic acid also has smaller grooves that make it more difficult for enzymes to attack.

Ribose sugar is basically more reactive than deoxyribose sugar due to hydroxyl (C-OH) bonds when it comes to RNA. So it is not stable in alkaline conditions. Ribonucleic acid also has bigger grooves that make it simple for enzymes to attack it.

In a Nutshell!

As seen, ribonucleic acid has two hydroxyl groups in the pentose sugar that make RNA reactive compared to deoxyribonucleic acid. So it is true that DNA is more stable than ribonucleic acid because of the pentose group’s stability.