Nucleotides

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nucleotides are organic compounds which consists of a nucleoside combined with a phosphate group. Nucleotides are molecules which join together to form the structural units of RNA and DNA. Nucleotides also play important roles in metabolism. In that capacity, they serve as sources of chemical energy (adenosine triphosphate and guanosine triphosphate), participate in cellular signaling (cyclic guanosine monophosphate and cyclic adenosine monophosphate), and are incorporated into important cofactors of enzymatic reactions (coenzyme A, flavin adenine dinucleotide, flavin mononucleotide, and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate.

A nucleotide is composed of a nitrogenous base, a five-carbon sugar (either ribose or 2'-deoxyribose), and one to three phosphate groups. Together, the nitrogenous base and sugar comprise a nucleoside. The phosphate groups form bonds with either the 2, 3, or 5-carbon of the sugar, with the 5-carbon site most common. A nucleotide is one of the building blocks of ribonucleic acids (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Nucleotides are linked by enzymes in order to make long, chainlike polynucleotides of defined sequence. The order or sequence of the nucleotide units along a polynucleotide chain plays an important role in the storage and transfer of genetic information.

A nucleotide molecule contains three functional groups: a base, a sugar, and a phosphate. It may seem puzzling that a nucleic acid should contain a base. While the base portion does have weakly basic properties, the nucleotide as a whole acts as an acid, due to the phosphate group.