10 RNA Facts

Facts About Ribonucleic Acid

Ribonucleic acid, conceptual artwork
Science Photo Library - PASIEKA. / Getty Images

RNA or ribonucleic acid is used to translate instructions from DNA to make proteins in your body. Here are 10 interesting and fun facts about RNA.

  1. Each RNA nucleotide consists of a nitrogenous base, a ribose sugar, and a phosphate.
  2. Each RNA molecule typically is a single strand, consisting of a relatively short chain of nucleotides. RNA can be shaped like a single helix, a straight molecule, or may be bet or twisted upon itself. DNA, in comparison, is double-stranded and consists of a very long chain of nucleotides.
  1. In RNA, the base adenine binds to uracil. In DNA, adenine binds to thymine. RNA does not contain thymine -- a uracil is an unmethylated form of thymine capable of absorbing light. Guanine binds to cytosine in both DNA and RNA.
  2. There are several types of RNA, including transfer RNA (tRNA), messenger RNA (mRNA), and ribosomal RNA (rRNA). RNA performs many functions in an organism, such as coding, decoding, regulating, and expressing genes.
  3. About 5% of the weight of a human cell is RNA. Only about 1% of a cell consists of DNA.
  4. RNA is found in both the nucleus and cytoplasm of humans cells. DNA is only found in the cell nucleus.
  5. RNA is the genetic material for some organisms which don't have DNA. Some viruses contain DNA; many only contain RNA.
  6. RNA is used in some cancer gene therapies to reduce the expression of cancer-causing genes.
  7. RNA technology is used to suppress the expression of fruit ripening genes so that fruits can remain on the vine longer, extending their season and availability for marketing.
  1. Friedrich Miescher discovered nucleic acids ('nuclein') in 1868. After that time, scientists realized there were different types of nucleic acids and different types of RNA, so there is no single person or date for the discovery of RNA. In 1939, researchers determined RNA is responsible for protein synthesis. In 1959, Severo Ochoa won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering how RNA is synthesized.