CIE A Level Biology (9700) 2019-2021

Revision Notes

6.1.4 The Structure of RNA

RNA Structure

  • Like DNA, the nucleic acid RNA (ribonucleic acid) is a polynucleotide – it is made up of many nucleotides linked together in a long chain
  • Like DNA, RNA nucleotides contain the nitrogenous bases adenine (A), guanine (G) and cytosine (C)
  • Unlike DNA, RNA nucleotides never contain the nitrogenous base thymine (T) – in place of this they contain the nitrogenous base uracil (U)
  • Unlike DNA, RNA nucleotides contain the pentose sugar ribose (instead of deoxyribose)
  • Unlike DNA, RNA molecules are only made up of one polynucleotide strand (they are single-stranded)
  • Each RNA polynucleotide strand is made up of alternating ribose sugars and phosphate groups linked together, with the nitrogenous bases of each nucleotide projecting out sideways from the single-stranded RNA molecule
  • The sugar-phosphate bonds (between different nucleotides in the same strand) are covalent bonds known as phosphodiester bonds
    • These bonds form what is known as the sugar-phosphate backbone of the RNA polynucleotide strand
    • The phosphodiester bonds link the 5-carbon of one deoxyribose sugar molecule to the phosphate group from the same nucleotide, which is itself linked by another phosphodiester bond to the 3-carbon of the deoxyribose sugar molecule of the next nucleotide in the strand
  • An example of an RNA molecule is messenger RNA (mRNA), which is the transcript copy of a gene that encodes a specific polypeptide. Two other examples are transfer RNA (tRNA) and ribosomal RNA (rRNA)

Exam Tip

You need to know the difference between DNA and RNA molecules (bases, number of strands, pentose sugar present).

Author:

Alistair graduated from Oxford University in 2014 with a degree in Biological Sciences. He has taught GCSE/IGCSE Biology, as well as Biology and Environmental Systems & Societies for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. While teaching in Oxford, Alistair completed his MA Education as Head of Department for Environmental Systems and Societies.
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