In this article we will discuss about the structure of RNA.
The RNA is usually single stranded except some viruses such as TMV, yellow mosaic virus, influenza virus, foot and mouth disease virus, reovirus, wound tumour virus, etc. which have dsRNA. The single strand of the RNA is folded either at certain regions or entirely to form hairpin-shaped structure.
In the hairpin shaped structures the complementary bases are linked by hydrogen bonds which give stability to the molecules. However, no complementary bases are found in the unfolded region. The RNA does not possess equal purine-pyrimidine ratio, as it is found in the DsNA.
Like DNA, the RNA is also the polymer of four nucleotides each one contains D-ribose, phosphoric acid and a nitrogenous base. The bases are two purines (A, G) and two pyrimidines (C, U) (Fig 5.11). Thymine is not found in RNA.
Pairing between bases occurs as A-U and G-C. The nucleotides formed by the four bases are adenosine monophosphate (AMP), guanosine monophosphate (GMP), cytosine monophosphate (CMP), and uridine monophosphate (UMP). These are found freely in nucleoplasm but in the form of triphosphates e.g. ATP, GTP, UTP and CTP. As a result of polymerization the ribonucleotides form a polynucleotide chain of RNA.
If the RNA is involved in genetic mechanism, it is called genetic RNA as found in plant, animal and bacterial viruses. However, DNA acts as genetic material and RNA follows the order of DNA. In such cells the RNA does not have genetic role. Therefore, it is called non-genetic RNA.
The non-genetic RNA is of three types:
(i) Ribosomal RNA (rRNA),
(ii) Transfer RNA (tRNA) or soluble RNA (sRNA), and
(iii) Messenger RNA (mRNA) or template RNA.
These three types of RNA differ from each other in structure, site of synthesis in eukaryotic cell and function.
The mRNA and tRNA are synthesized on DNA template, whereas rRNA is delivered from nucleolar DNA. These RNAs are synthesized during different stages. During cleavage most of the mRNAs are synthesized, whereas tRNA is synthesized at the end of cleavage. Synthesis of rRNA occurs during gastrulation. The total population of rRNA is about 90% of all RNAs.
Like DNA, the RNA is not self- replicating but it has to depend on DNA. Therefore, replication of non-genetic RNA is known as DNA-dependent RNA replication. Moreover, the genetic RNA of viruses is self-replicating i.e. it can form its own several replica copies.