Differences Between DNA And RNA

Differences Between DNA And RNA

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) & RNA(Ribonucleic acid) are two molecules that exist within the human body. But what is DNA and RNA and what exactly are the differences between the two?

In this article, we will be simplifying what these two molecules are and showing you what the differences are!

What Is DNA?

Deoxyribonucleic acid, aka DNA, is a long molecule in our body that replicates and stores genetic information.

DNA holds all the genetic information of a living being from generation to generation. It is used in the development of all known living organisms. 

Though a small amount of DNA can be found in the mitochondria, the vast majority of it is found in the nucleus.

DNA is the literal blueprint for all genetic information contained within an organism.

DNA is often nicknamed the “molecule of life” as almost all genetic life has DNA in its bodies. 

What Is RNA?

Ribonucleic acid, aka RNA, is a single-stranded, long strain of cells that processes protein. It is a copy of DNA that carries information of amino acids from the genes to where proteins are assembled.

It converts genetic information from the DNA into protein and then moves it to the correct areas where the ribosomes’ protein factories are. 

Humans have both DNA and RNA. 

There are three different types of RNA: 

  • Messenger RNA (mRNA) takes portions of the genetic codes and copies them, transporting them to ribosomes. 
  • Transfer RNA (tRNA) takes the amino acids, and basic protein building blocks to the protein factories.
  • Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) is a component of the ribosome factory. Without its component protein production could not occur. 

The three types of RNA are all found in different locations. mRNA is found in the nucleus. tRNA is a “free-roaming” molecule that moves around the cytoplasm. RNA is found as part of the ribosomes. 

What Are Ribose And Ribosomes?

Ribose was discovered in 1891 by Emil Fisher. It is also known as D-Ribose. 

Ribosomes are very small, minute particles found in RNA. They are formed in the area of the nucleus called the nucleolus and then they are transported to the cytoplasm, where they are then free to float around. 

How DNA And RNA Work Together

Both DNA and RNA are very similar in structure and function, but they are still different. Whereas DNA contains the necessary information for encoding proteins, but it does not produce proteins directly. 

RNA takes that information from the DNA, and then transforms it into the necessary proteins that perform the most cellular functions. 


DNA & RNA are both built with sugar, but the sugar in DNA is called deoxyribose and the sugar in RNA is called ribose. 

Ribose contains more oxygen, hydrogen atoms, also known as hydroxyl. This is the biggest difference between the DNA and RNA sugars. 

The chemical structures of both sugars are similar, but when looking at them, you can clearly see the difference. 

Differences Between The Two

DNA can be damaged by UV lighting, whereas RNA is quite resistant to it. Whereas DNA is described as “long-lived”, RNA can vary between being both long and short-lived. 

DNA is self-replicating, but RNA is only made from DNA on an “as needed” basis. 

The helix geometry of DNA is B-form (A and Z are also present) and RNA helix geometry is A-form.

DNA is made of two strands called a “double helix” and RNA is just made of one strand. On occasion, RNA will form a double helix, but only intermittently.

Adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine are present in DNA, whereas RNA has all the same, except for thymine, which is replaced with uracil.

RNA is found in the nucleus of the cell, cytoplasm, and ribosome. DNA is found in the nucleus of the cell and the mitochondria. 

Because of its deoxyribose sugar, DNA is a more stable molecule than RNA. The ribose sugar in RNA is more reactive than DNA, which makes it not very stable in an alkaline environment. 

DNA cannot leave the nucleus, but RNA can. 

There are only two types of DNA (intra nuclear and extranuclear), but three types of RNA (mRNA, tRNA and rRNA).

DNA is a longer polymer than RNA. Though RNA is variable in length, they are never as long as DNA polymers. 


So DNA and RNA are very similar in their structure and functions, but it’s very clear that they both serve different functions.

The main difference between the two is one is more like a storage device (DNA) that allows the genetic blueprint to be passed from generation to generation.

The other (RNA) decodes that storage device and passes protein to the correct locations. 

DNA and RNA cannot work without each other and both are fundamental building blocks of life. Remember that for RNA to work, it needs DNA.

Jennifer Dawkins