Ribonucleic acid

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One of two nucleic acids which transmit genetic information in all living organisms. It is a polymer composed of a phosphate backbone, ribose sugar residues and one of the following bases: Uridine, Adenine, Guanosine, Cytosine. Modifications of some of the bases is also observed, e.g. inosine, pseudouridine. Compare deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

Once thought of as passive carriers of information, RNA is capable of catalytic activity, either as as part of the ribosome (rRNA) or alone as ribozymes.

In mammals the main subtypes include:

However, there are several other types of RNA have roles in other various cellular pathways (see Wikipedia:Non-coding RNA) and RNA interference. Noncoding RNAs (ncRNA) are also involved in epigenetic regulation such as with the HOTAIR genes (hox transcript antisense RNA non-protein coding) indirect effects on chromatin.

RNA viruses also exist.

Methods of Detection

RNA is often very labile and sensitive to degradation by ubiquitous RNases. Traditionally detected with Northern blotting, but it is often easier to convert RNA into more stable DNA with reverse transcriptase and then analyse with standard DNA tools.