Nucleic Acids

Nucleic acids are very large and complex organic molecules that store and transfer important information in the cell. There are two major types of nucleic acids: deoxyribonucleic acid and ribonucleic acid.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, contains information that determines the characteristics of an organism and directs its cell activities. Ribonucleic (RIE-boh-noo-KLEE-ik) acid, or RNA, stores and transfers information from DNA that is essential for the manufacturing of proteins. RNA molecules can also act as enzymes. Both DNA and RNA are polymers, composed of thousands of linked monomers called nucleotides (NOO-klee-uh-TIEDS). As shown in Figure 3-12, each nucleotide is made of three main components: a phosphate group, a five-carbon sugar, and a ring-shaped nitrogenous base.

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