Uracil (Molecule of the Month for October 2019)
Uracil is one of the four nucleobases in the nucleic acid RNA that are represented by the letters A, G, C and U. The others are adenine (A), cytosine (C), and guanine (G). In RNA, uracil binds to adenine via two hydrogen bonds. In DNA, the uracil nucleobase is replaced by thymine. Uracil is a demethylated form of thymine
In RNA, uracil base-pairs with adenine and replaces thymine during DNA transcription. Methylation of uracil produces thymine. In DNA, the evolutionary substitution of thymine for uracil may have increased DNA stability and improved the efficiency of DNA replication. Uracil pairs with adenine through hydrogen bonding. When base pairing with adenine, uracil acts as both a hydrogen bond acceptor and a hydrogen bond donor. In RNA, uracil binds with a ribose sugar to form the ribonucleoside uridine. When a phosphate attaches to uridine, uridine 5'-monophosphate is produced.
Uracil is rarely found in DNA, and this may have been an evolutionary change to increase genetic stability. This is because cytosine can deaminate spontaneously to produce uracil through hydrolytic deamination. Therefore, if there were an organism that used uracil in its DNA, the deamination of cytosine (which undergoes base pairing with guanine) would lead to formation of uracil (which would base pair with adenine) during DNA synthesis. Uracil-DNA glycosylase excises uracil bases from double-stranded DNA. This enzyme would therefore recognize and cut out both types of uracil – the one incorporated naturally, and the one formed due to cytosine deamination, which would trigger unnecessary and inappropriate repair processes. This problem is believed to have been solved in terms of evolution, by methylating uracil. Methylated uracil is identical to thymine. Hence the hypothesis that, over time, thymine became standard in DNA instead of uracil. So cells continue to use uracil in RNA, and not in DNA, because RNA is shorter-lived than DNA, and any potential uracil-related errors do not lead to lasting damage
Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for October 2019 )
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