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Types of Nucleic Acids

Introduces the functional differences between DNA and RNA and the structure of DNA polymers.

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Ribonucleic Acid: the Ribbon

What is important about the structure of RNA?

While the structure of DNA is similar to a ladder, the structure of RNA is half of a ladder. RNA is single-stranded, forming a loose coil similar to a ribbon. This common hairpin structure consists of loops and bases. Double-stranded RNA also exists, but should not be confused with DNA.

Credit: Ancella Simoes
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/origamiancy/3797039734/lightbox/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

These spiral-shaped origami pieces are similar to the basic structure of RNA. [Figure1]

The primary sequences of RNA are known, but scientists have found that secondary sequences exist as well. To be able to discover these hidden sequences, or structures, scientists have implemented a "fast structural alignment algorithm" known as RScan. In addition to finding and analyzing secondary sequences of RNA, the RScan also compares the sequences of RNAs to find particular similarities and differences. Today, this type of software can be accessed by anyone.

Creative Applications

  1. The RScan works extremely rapidly. Exactly how efficiently can it be used? (use the first two resources if necessary)
  2. What are the primary and secondary structures of RNA involved with the RScan? (use the third resource if necessary)
  3. How does RNA possess equal importance to DNA?


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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Ancella Simoes; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/origamiancy/3797039734/lightbox/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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