Life on earth may have started thanks to an adapted version of RNA

DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid – is generally known as the molecule in the core of all our cells that contains genetic information.

It is in the form of a double helix and consists of small sections called nucleotides.

Each nucleotide contains a nucleobase, a sugar and a phosphate group.

The sugar component in this specific molecule is called deoxyribose and forms the D in DNA.

This is a cyclic carbon-based chemical with five carbon atoms arranged as a pentagon.

At the second carbon atom there is a confirmed single hydrogen atom in deoxyribose.

This can also contain an extra oxygen.

In this case, the oxygenated chemical then simply forms ribose – the R in RNA.

The deoxy prefix literally means without oxygen.

Form of RNA and DNA

RIBose can do almost everything that deoxyribose can do and also codes for genetic information in some cells and organisms.

When the oxygen is present, it drastically changes how the chemicals bind and sit next to other molecules.

When oxygen is present – in RNA – it can take various forms.

When oxygen is not present at this specific location – in DNA – the molecule forms the iconic double helix.

Use of RNA

DNA is often split into RNA and read by the cells to translate and transcribe the genetic code to make proteins and other molecules essential to life.

RNA uses three of the same base pairs as DNA: Cytosine, Guanine, Adenine.

The other base pair, Thymine, is replaced by RNA for Uracil.

RNA is also often found in simpler organisms, such as bacteria.

It is often also a virus, with hepatitis, flu and HIV all forms of RNA.

Mitochondrial RNA

All animal cells use DNA, with one notable exception: the mitochondria.

Mitochondrian are the powerhouses of the cell and turn glucose into pyruvate and then into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) via the Krebs cycle.

This process all happens in this one organelle in the cells and ATP is the universal form of energy and is used in every aerobic organism.

There is a small RNA strand in the mitochondria that is unique in the animal kingdom.

It is only passed on from the mother (the father’s life in the sperm but is dissolved during conception) and allows people to find their mother line through time.