What are nucleotides? (with photos)

DNA contains nucleotides.

Nucleotides are molecules that form a critical part of RNA and DNA, making them important to all living organisms on Earth. These special molecules are also involved in enzymatic reactions in the body, production of chemical energy, and cell signaling. Several researchers work with nucleotides, identifying different types and their functions and studying their chemical structure.

Some scientists focus their research on identifying the various nucleotides present in an organism and determining what they do.

Three separate molecules come together to form a nucleotide. The first is a base which can be a purine or a pyrimidine compound. The base attaches to a pentose sugar, a sugar that has five carbon atoms, to create a nucleoside. The nucleoside, in turn, joins a phosphate group, creating a nucleotide. In the case of RNA, the sugar is a ribose sugar, creating a ribonucleotide, and in DNA, the sugar is a deoxyribose sugar, creating a deoxyribonucleotide.

Nucleotides are molecules that form a critical part of RNA and DNA, making them important to all living organisms on Earth.

When nucleotides are linked together, they form nucleic acid, a polymer. In DNA and RNA, chemical bonds create long chains of nucleic acids that come together in a famous ladder shape. The chemical structure of each nucleotide determines which nucleotide it can bind to through the ladder, an important feature that determines how DNA and RNA can be assembled. Each set of nucleotides that make up a rung on the ladder is known as a base pair, and an individual organism can have billions of base pairs in its genetic code.

Nucleotides, along with amino acids, are sometimes called the building blocks of life because they provide the basis of the genetic code. In the form of DNA, nucleic acids are able to go through a process known as transcription to create an RNA copy, and the RNA copy directs the production of various proteins by the body. These proteins are involved in everyday biochemical processes and also in the underlying structure of an organism, with genes for making proteins that are activated once an egg is fertilized and cells begin to divide.

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Nucleotide research is concerned with identifying the various nucleotides present in the body and what they do, and with looking at variations in nucleotides that may be related to pathologies and various natural phenomena. For example, errors in the production of nucleotides can lead to genetic mutations, caused by interference with the copying of DNA that results in damage to various areas of the genetic code. Many researchers use sophisticated computer modeling systems to model the nucleotides they work with.

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