Nucleic Acids: What You Need to Know

Nucleic acids are molecules found in the cells of all living organisms. At Advanced ChemTech, we know it’s important to understand what nucleic acids do. What are they responsible for, and how do they work?

Nucleic acids are essential biomolecules that store and transmit genetic information. They play a crucial role in all living organisms’ growth, development, and functioning. The two nucleic acid types are deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA), and they both have nucleotides as their building blocks. 

This post will outline the basics of nucleic acids and their importance in biology. It will also discuss the two types of nucleic acids, nucleic acid structure, and the building blocks of nucleic acids.

What Are Nucleic Acids?

Nucleic acids are complex, naturally occurring biomolecules that hold an organism’s genetic information. They transmit hereditary traits from parents to offspring.

Living organisms also need nucleic acids to direct their growth and development. Nucleic acids enable protein synthesis, which is responsible for overall cell structure and function and entails cells creating protein from amino acids.

What Are the Building Blocks of Nucleic Acids?

They consist of numerous nucleotides chained together. Each nucleotide contains:

  • A sugar molecule: In DNA, this is deoxyribose, while in RNA, it’s ribose.
  • A phosphate group: A phosphorus atom bonded to four oxygen atoms.
  • One of four organic bases: Adenine (A), Thymine(T) in DNA or Uracil(U) in RNA, Guanine (G), and Cytosine(C). All these bases are nitrogenous. 

The sequence of these four nitrogenous bases, along with the sugar and phosphate, forms a nucleic acid chain. The chain contains the instructions for an organism’s survival and functioning. 

What Are Nucleic Acids Responsible For?

Nucleic acids are crucial for all living organisms as they carry the genetic code necessary for life. Doctors and scientists use nucleic acids to study, diagnose, and treat various genetic disorders. For example, DNA testing can identify inherited diseases or determine paternity.

Nucleic acids also play a significant role in protein synthesis. As mentioned earlier, proteins are essential for cell structure and function. They control nearly all cellular processes, including metabolism, respiration, growth, and immune responses. 

Without the instructions provided by nucleic acids, proteins would not be produced, and life as we know it would not exist.

Additionally, nucleic acids have a critical role in cell signaling. They regulate gene expression, which involves turning genes on and off to control cellular functions. It allows cells to respond to their environment and maintain homeostasis.

What’s the Importance of Nucleotide Sequence?

Did you know that the pattern and sequence that nucleotides follow when forming a nucleic acid affects its function? Each combination of the four nitrogenous bases (A, T/U, G, and C) creates a unique genetic code that determines the production of specific proteins.

Even small changes in the sequence can significantly affect an organism’s traits or health. For example, a single mutation in the DNA sequence can lead to genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia.

Moreover, studying the nucleotide sequence of different organisms allows scientists to understand their evolutionary relationships and track changes over time.

Nucleic acids are also essential in biotechnology. Scientists can manipulate and insert specific sequences of nucleotides into organisms to produce desired proteins or alter their genetic makeup. 

For example, Advanced ChemTech specializes in peptide production. We’re behind a treasure trove of novel essentials like shielded amino acids, coupling reagents, fancy linkers, and resins. Our stash also includes rare amino acids and top-notch building blocks!

The principles of nucleotide sequencing inform many of our products, allowing us to create custom peptides for any commercial application. Our team of experts can synthesize, purify, and analyze peptide sequences with precision and efficiency.

Additionally, nucleic acids are useful in genetic engineering and gene therapy. It’s possible to manipulate their nucleotide sequences and transfer specific genes. Gene transfers help to treat genetic disorders or produce desirable proteins. 

What Are the Two Types of Nucleic Acids?

As already mentioned, DNA and RNA are the two nucleic acid types. These two molecules differ in structure and function, but they share a common purpose: to store and transmit genetic information.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is typically a double-stranded molecule that stores hereditary information in all living organisms. It contains four nitrogenous bases; 

  • Adenine (A).
  • Guanine (G).
  • Cytosine (C).
  • Thymine(T).

You can have one of the four organic bases pairing up and forming the rungs of the DNA ladder. The sequence of these bases determines an organism’s genetic traits.

RNA (ribonucleic acid), on the other hand, is a nucleic acid monomer. It’s generally single-stranded and consists of three main types:

  • Messenger RNA (mRNA) carries genetic information from DNA to ribosomes for protein synthesis.
  • Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) forms part of the ribosome structure and helps translate mRNA into proteins.
  • Transfer RNA (tRNA): During protein synthesis, these nucleic acids use their anticodon sequence to match the codon sequence on mRNA and transfer amino acids to the ribosome. 

These three RNA types work together to read and translate the genetic code stored in DNA into proteins, a process crucial for an organism’s survival and development.


While both are composed of nucleotides, DNA entails a double helix structure and two complementary strands, but RNA is a single-stranded monomer.

Another notable difference is the type of sugar present in each molecule. DNA contains deoxyribose sugar, while RNA contains ribose sugar. This slight difference in sugars also affects the stability and longevity of the two types of nucleic acids.

DNA is known for its exceptional stability, which makes it suitable for storing genetic information. On the other hand, RNA is less stable and more prone to mutations, making it better suited for carrying out short-term functions in protein synthesis.

Gene Expression

Gene expression entails coping or transcribing the genetic information in DNA into RNA. It enables organisms to produce essential proteins for growth and development.

Genetic engineering involves manipulating an organism’s DNA to express specific traits. Scientists use techniques like gene transfer to introduce foreign genes into an organism’s genome and alter its genetic makeup.

Final Thoughts on the Structure and Function of Nucleic Acids

In summary, nucleic acids are essential to all living organisms and are responsible for storing and transmitting genetic information. Composed of nucleotides, DNA and RNA have distinct structures and functions in the cell. 

DNA serves as the blueprint for making proteins, while RNA plays an active role in protein synthesis. With advancements in genetic engineering, our understanding of these molecules and their functions continues to grow. Studying nucleic acid molecules can help us gain insights into genetic disorders and develop potential treatments. That’s why you need to know the difference between nucleic acids and amino acids.

Posted in