Nucleic acids

Last revised by Francesco Sciacca on 29 May 2021

The nucleic acids are the collective term for the two main macromolecular nucleotide polymers:

Nucleotides, the constituent units of nucleic acids, are made up of simpler molecules called nucleosides and inorganic phosphate (H3PO4). Each nucleoside, in turn, is made up of a monosaccharide (D-ribose in RNA and 2-deoxy-D-ribose in DNA) and a heterocyclic base 4.

Heterocyclic bases

Heterocyclic bases, also known as nitrogenous bases, are divided into two main classes: purines and pyrimidines. Adenine (A) and guanine (G) belong to the purines; cytosine (C) and thymine (T) (replaced by uracil (U) in RNA) conversely belong to the pyrimidines 4.

3D structure

DNA molecules are found in double helix form (A, B and Z-forms), while RNA molecules are typically single-stranded 4,5.

Biological functions

The main function of nucleic acids is the conservation and transmission of genetic information 6. In particular, the DNA of a cell and the information it contains represents the cellular genome.

Radiolabeled nucleosides

In FLT PET imaging, a radiopharmaceutical similar in chemical composition to the nucleoside deoxythymidine is used, to which a hydroxyl group is replaced with a radioactive fluorine atom: [18F] -FLT 2,3. The radiopharmaceutical, phosphorylated by thymidine kinase, is incorporated into the DNA 7; as a proliferation marker, it finds its best use in oncological diagnostics 3.

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