Difference Between DNA and RNA

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) and Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) are the two most essential molecules responsible for heredity. They are responsible for some significant functions like storage and accessing genetic information that exists during the complete life span. They are linear polymers that are made up of sugars, phosphates, and bases. 


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Key Takeaways

  1. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) carries genetic information and is responsible for the inheritance of traits.
  2. RNA (ribonucleic acid) synthesizes proteins from genetic information stored in DNA.
  3. DNA is typically double-stranded, while RNA is single-stranded.


The difference between DNA and RNA is the components they contain. DNA has thymine, and RNA does not. In fact, it consists of the nucleobase uracil. Also, DNA includes deoxyribose sugar that lacks one atom of oxygen. On the contrary, RNA involves ribose sugar with one extra oxygen atom. ‘Deoxyribonucleic Acid’ is the complete form of DNA, whereas ‘Ribonucleic Acid’ is RNA.


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DNA is the genomic material in the cell which stores the genetic information required for the development and functioning of all living organisms.

RNA is a cell’s essential regulatory player. Here, they catalyze biological reactions and control and modulate gene expression, sensing, and communication.

They are made up of simpler units called nucleotides and are similar on a fundamental level. Though they belong to the same group of a molecule, they have chemical differences that lead to distinct functions as well.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonDNARNA
Full-FormDeoxyribonucleic AcidRibonucleic Acid
StructureDNA is made up of two strands that are arranged in a double helix. These strands consist of nucleotides. RNA is a single-strand molecule. The strands of RNA are shorter than that of DNA but are also made up of nucleotides. In fact, there are times with the RNA strand also forms the secondary double helix structure.
FunctionThe primary function of DNA is to replicate and store genetic information.The primary function of RNA is to convert the genetic information stored in DNA to build proteins. It later moves to ribosomal protein manufacturing units.
LengthDNA molecules have polymers that are comparatively longer than RNA polymers. A chromosome molecule is a single, long DNA molecule which is about several centimetres long.RNA molecules can be of variable lengths but are much shorter than DNA polymers. When we talk about a big RNA molecule, there are chances that it might be somewhere around a thousand base pairs long.
Sugar Deoxyribose sugar can be found in DNA. It contains one less hydroxyl group as compared to RNA’s ribose. The sugar molecules present in RNA are called ribose. There are no hydroxyl groups present like those present in deoxyribose.
BasesAdenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine are the bases present in DNA. Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Uracil are the types of bases present in RNA.
Base-pairsDNA consists of Adenine, Thymine (A-T), and Cytosine and Guanine (C-G) pairs.RNA comprises Cytosine and Guanine (C-G) pairs and Adenine and Uracil (A-U).
LocationDNA is located mainly inside the nucleus. It also has a presence in the cell organelles like Mitochondria and Chloroplast.RNA originates in the nucleolus and later moves to its specifically allocated region of the cytoplasm.
StabilityDNA is a highly stable molecule.RNA has comparatively lesser stability than DNA.
PropagationDNA is a self-replicating molecule.RNA is synthesized from DNA whenever required.


What is DNA?

DNA is a deoxyribonucleic acid, which is a hereditary component found in all living beings. It codes genetic information for the necessary transmission of inherited traits and other details.

DNA is like a blueprint of essential biological details that a living organism must follow to exist and remain functional.

DNA is located in the nucleus of the cell and is called nuclear DNA. A small amount of DNA is also present in mitochondria called mtDNA or mitochondrial DNA.

Within the nucleus of eukaryotic cells, there are structures made up of DNA called chromosomes.

DNA is made up of two long polymers that are made up of nucleotides. The key elements of DNA are made up of sugars and phosphate groups that are joined by ester bonds.

It has two strands running in opposite directions and is thus anti-parallel.

There are four bases, namely Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine, and Thymine, whose sequence is encoded along the backbone of DNA.

The information stored in DNA is coded in a sequence of pieces of it, which are called genes.

A human genome has around 3 billion pairs of double-helix DNA structures arranged into 46 chromosomes.


What is RNA?

RNA is Ribonucleic acid, which is a complex compound that functions in cellular protein synthesis. It is another macromolecule which is necessary for the existence of all living forms.

They are essential to a cell as they catalyze biological reactions. They control and regulate genes as well as carry on communication among the cells.

The chemical foundation of RNA is pretty similar to DNA. It comprises a nucleotide consisting of a nucleobase, a ribose sugar, and a phosphate group.

RNA is composed of nucleo-bases like Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Uracil, whose chemical sequences store genetic codes.

Unlike DNA, RNA has a single-stranded structure which is capable of adapting very complex three-dimensional structures.

They are synthesized from DNA as per the requirement. Depending on its type, RNA is found in a cell’s nucleus, cytoplasm, and ribosomes.


Main Differences Between DNA and RNA

  1. DNA is a double-stranded helix structure with long chains of nucleotides. At the same time, RNA molecules are single-stranded helix structures with shorter chains of nucleotides. 
  2. The bases present in DNA are Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine. RNA also shares the same bases, but instead of Thymine, it contains Uracil. 
  3. DNA is a self-replicating molecule, whereas RNA is synthesized from DNA as per the requirement.
  4. DNA is susceptible to UV damage, while RNA is rather resistant to it.
  5. DNA has a long life span and is present in fixed quantities. However, RNAs are comparatively short-lived and are present in variable amounts.
Difference Between DNA and RNA
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0003269766900121
  2. https://academic.oup.com/nar/article-abstract/5/9/3337/2380903
  3. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/240/4858/1520.short
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