Biology » The Chemistry of Life » Organic Compounds

Nucleic Acids

Nucleic Acids

Nucleic acids are large organic molecules that are key to all living organisms. Nucleic acids are polymers made up of nucleotides. Nucleotides are made up of a sugar, a phosphate and a nitrogenous base. Nucleotides are joined together by phosphodiester bonds, joining the phosphate of one nucleotide to the sugar of the next. DNA is synthesised using intermediate products of carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism.

Nucleic acids include:

  • Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA): which contains the ‘instructions’ for the synthesis of proteins in the form of genes. DNA is found in the nucleus of every cell.
  • Ribonucleic acid (RNA): is important in transferring genetic information from DNA to proteins. It is found on ribosomes, in the cytoplasm and in the nucleus.

Image credit: Siyavula


The structure and function of the nucleus will be explained in details in another tutorial on cells: the basic units of life.

Video: Biomolecules Summary

The Amoeba Sisters video below summarizes biomolecules: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids and includes examples, functions, monomers, and structures.

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