UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
What is the difference between a nucleic acid and an amino acid?
Question Date: 2006-01-20
Answer 1:

Nucleic acids allow organisms to transfer genetic information from one generation to the next. There are two types of nucleic acids: deoxyribonucleic acid better known as DNA and ribonucleic acid, better known as RNA. Nucleic acids are macromolecules (very large molecules) that consist of three parts:
A Base (purine or pyrimidine)
A Five-Carbon Sugar
A Phosphate Group
.An alternating sugar and phosphate molecule build the backbone of the macromolecule, a nucleotide base is attached to each sugar molecule.
There are only four different bases in a nucleic acid but each nucleic acid contains a very long backbone with millions of bases. The order in which these nucleotide bases appear in the nucleic acid, codes for the information carried in the molecule.
DNA and RNA differ in the sugar molecule which they use in the sugar-phosphate backbone and in one of the nucleotide bases. Read more about the differences at:
Nucleic Acids

Amino acids on the other hand are the building blocks of our proteins. All proteins are made of alpha amino acids. They consist of a carboxylic acid (-COOH) and an amino (-NH2) functional group attached to the same tetrahedral carbon atom. This carbon is the a-carbon. Distinct R-groups, that distinguish one amino acid from another, also are attached to the alpha-carbon (except in the case of glycine where the R-group is hydrogen). The fourth substitution on the tetrahedral a-carbon of amino acids is hydrogen.

Amino Acids

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use