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What are the differences between DNA and RNA?

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DNA and RNA are both nucleic acids, meaning that they are both macromolecules (large molecules) that are responsible for storing and transmitting the genetic material of living organisms.  There are several major differences between the two, however.

First, the type of sugar found in each.  DNA has deoxyribose, while RNA contains ribose.  This difference actually gave rise to the different names.  DNA stands for DeoxyriboNucleic Acid, and RNA stands for RiboNucleic Acid.

Secondly, DNA consists of two helical (twisted) strands that give it the appearance of a twisted ladder.  RNA is made of only one helical strand (picture a curly fry).

Additionally, there is only one type of DNA, but there are several types of RNA and each has a different job.  Messenger RNA (mRNA) copies DNA and carries the message to a ribosome.  Transfer RNA (tRNA) carries amino acids to the ribosome.  Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) makes up the ribosome itself.

Finally, DNA is made of the nucleotides adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine.  RNA contains the first three, but has Uracil in place of Thymine.

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jess1999 | Student

The differences between DNA and RNA is that DNA stands for deoxyriboNucleicAcid and RNA stands for RiboNucleicAcid. DNA is also double stranded while RNA is single stranded. DNA is only located in the nucleus while RNA is made in the nucleus and is able to travel out of the nucleus.

ryan01 | Student


    • RNA is single stranded, not double stranded like DNA
    • RNA molecules are smaller (shorter) than DNA molecules.
    • Both DNA and RNA differ in composition, size and structure.
    • RNA contains ribose sugar, whereas the deoxyribose sugar is present in DNA
    • The nitrogenous base Uracil is present in RNA instead of thymine in DNA.
mackenzielock | Student
Both DNA and RNA are composed of repeating units of nucleotides. Each
nucleotide consists of a sugar, a phosphate and a nucleic acid base.
The sugar in DNA is deoxyribose. The sugar in RNA is ribose, the same
as deoxyribose but with one more OH (oxygen-hydrogen atom combination
called a hydroxyl). This is the biggest difference between DNA and RNA.
Another difference is that RNA molecules can have a much greater variety
of nucleic acid bases. DNA has mostly just 4 different bases with a few
extra occasionally. The difference in these bases (between DNA and RNA)
allows RNA molecules to assume a wide variety of shapes and also many
different functions. DNA, on the other hand, serves as a set of directions