DNA vs RNA: Major Differences Between Nucleic Acids

DNA (full form: deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (full form: ribonucleic acid) are two essential molecules for the existence and progression of life on Earth. As genetic material, these molecules pass on traits from one generation to another. The genetic sequences encoded in these molecules is used by cells to manufacture proteins essential for all the functions of all life-forms. Just like proteins, lipids and polyssacherides; nucleic acids are also macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life. Although both DNA and RNA are nucleic acids, there are a number of differences between them. Let’s do a DNA vs RNA comparison and take a look at the key differences.

dna vs rna comparison

Differences between DNA and RNA
Basis of Comparison DNA RNA
Full form Deoxyribonucleic acid Ribonucleic acid
Function DNA stores long-term genetic information for making new cells. RNA get information from DNA and carries this information from nucleus to ribosomes where protein molecules are synthesized on the basis of this information.
Helix β-form double-stranded helix. α-form, usually single-stranded
Sugar DNA molecule contains deoxyribose sugar. RNA molecule contains ribose sugar
Nucleotide bases A (adenine), G (guanine), T (thymine) and C (cytosine) A (adenine), G (guanine), U (Uracil) and C (cytosine)
Base-pairing A-T and C-G A-U and C-G
Number bases DNA molecule contains long chain of nucleotide base pairs. RNA molecule has relatively shorter chain of base pairs.
Location in cell DNA is found inside the nucleus (only a small amount is located inside mitochondria) RNA gets created from DNA inside the nucleus. Then it moves out into the cytoplasm.
Propagation DNA molecule is self-replicating. RNA is synthesized from DNA.
Hydrolyzing enzyme DNase RNase
Mutation The mutation rate in DNA is lower than that in RNA. RNA has higher mutation rate.
Stability DNA contains one less oxygen-containing hydroxyl group. This makes DNA relatively more stable. DNA is stable under alkaline conditions. Ribose sugar in RNA makes it relatively unstable in comparison with DNA. The RNA molecule is unstable under alkaline conditions.
Polymerization DNA is a huge polymer. A chromosome, which is a folded single DNA molecule, can be many centimeters long, if straightened. RNA molecules are much smaller polymers. They typically contain a few thousand base pairs.
Proof-reading DNA polymerase can detect errors in base-pairing. RNA polymerase can not detect errors in base-pairning.
Need of Primer Primer necessary to initiate replication. No primer is needed for RNA.
Ultraviolet (UV) Sensitivity DNA is vulnerable to damage under UV light. RNA is relatively more resistant to damage from UV light.
Examples Chromosomal DNA (nuclear DNA),
plasmid DNA,
mitochondrial DNA,
chloroplast DNA,
Messenger RNA (mRNA)
Transfer RNA (tRNA)
Ribosomal RNA (rRNA)