DNA vs RNA- Definition and 30 Key Differences

Interesting Science Videos

Differences between DNA and RNA (DNA vs RNA)

Differences between DNA and RNA

Some of the differences are:





1.       Full form Deoxyribonucleic Acid  Ribonucleic Acid
2.       Location DNA is found in the nucleus, with a small amount of DNA also present in mitochondria. RNA forms in the nucleolus, and then moves to specialized regions of the cytoplasm depending on the type of RNA formed. 
3.       Structure Long, ladder-like macromolecule that twists to form a double helix. In contrast to the double helix structure of DNA, RNA is generally single stranded.
4.       Helix Geometry The helix geometry of DNA is of β-form. The helix geometry of RNA is of α-form.
5.       Nucleotides Each DNA nucleotide contains one of four nitrogenous bases, abbreviated A (adenine), G (guanine), T (thymine), or C (cytosine). Contains the nitrogenous base uracil in place of thymine.
6.       Chain of Nucleotides Long chain of nucleotides Relatively short chains
7.       Sugar DNA contains deoxyribose sugar. Contains a different sugar (ribose rather than deoxyribose) in its nucleotides.
8.       Base Pairs Adenine and Thymine pair (A-T)

Cytosine and Guanine pair (C-G)

Adenine and Uracil pair (A-U)

Cytosine and Guanine pair (C-G)  

9.       Ratio of Bases In case of DNA: 
• Adenine = Thymine 
• Guanine = Cytosine
In case of RNA: 
• Adenine ≠ Thymine 
• Guanine ≠ Cytosine
10.    Molecular Weight 2 to 6 million 25,000 to 2 million
11.    Number For a particular species, the DNA number remains constant for every cell. The number of RNA may differ from cell to cell.
12.    Molecule DNA does not usually exist as a single molecule, but instead as a tightly-associated pair of molecules. RNA may exist as a single molecule.
13.    Propagation DNA is self-replicating. RNA is synthesized from DNA on an as-needed basis.
14.    Major enzyme involved in propagation DNA polymerase RNA polymerase
15.    Need of Primer Primer necessary to initiate replication. No primer is needed for RNA. 
16.    Proof-reading activity Present. Absent since RNA polymerase lacks the ability to detect errors of base pairing.
17.    Polymer length DNA is a much longer polymer than RNA. A chromosome, for example, is a single, long DNA molecule, which would be several centimetres in length when unravelled. RNA molecules are variable in length, but much shorter than long DNA polymers. A large RNA molecule might only be a few thousand base pairs long.
18.    Leaving Nucleus DNA can’t leave the nucleus. RNA leaves the nucleus (mRNA).
19.    Complementary forms Complementary forms are mostly between two DNA strands. RNA strand can form complementary structures with strands of either DNA or RNA.
20.    Destruction  and re-use DNA is completely protected by the body i.e. the body destroys enzymes that cleave DNA.   RNA strands are continually made, broken down and reused.
21.    Hydrolyzing enzyme DNase RNase
22.    Function • Storing genetic information
• Directs protein synthesis
• Determines genetic coding
• Directly responsible for metabolic activities, evolution, heredity, and differentiation.
• Transferring genetic information from the DNA to proteins
• Carrying it outside the nucleus
• Translating it to proteins
23.    Role as Genetic Material In all organisms other than certain viruses Very rarely (in some viruses)
24.    Versatility and Usefulness More stable and holds more complex information for longer periods of time. RNA is more versatile than DNA, capable of performing numerous, diverse tasks in an organism.
25.    Stability Due to its deoxyribose sugar, which contains one less oxygen-containing hydroxyl group, DNA is a more stable molecule than RNA. DNA is stable under alkaline conditions. RNA, containing a ribose sugar, is more reactive than DNA and is not stable in alkaline conditions. RNA’s larger helical grooves mean it is more easily subject to attack by enzymes.
26.    Ultraviolet (UV) Sensitivity DNA is vulnerable to damage by ultraviolet light.  RNA is more resistant to damage from UV light than DNA.
27.    Mutation Rate DNA’s mutation rate is relatively lower. RNA’s mutation rate is relatively higher.
28.    Unusual Bases Never May be present rarely
29.    Rate of Renaturation After Melting Relatively slower Quick
30.    Types Chromosomal DNA (nuclear DNA) and Extra-chromosomal (plasmid DNA, mt- DNA, chl- DNA etc.) Messenger RNA (mRNA) Transfer RNA (tRNA) Ribosomal RNA (rRNA)

hnRNA • snRNA • snoRNA • miRNA • siRNA


  1. https://www.technologynetworks.com/genomics/lists/what-are-the-key-differences-between-dna-and-rna-296719
  2. https://www.thoughtco.com/dna-versus-rna-608191
  3. https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Structural_Biochemistry/Nucleic_Acid/Difference_between_DNA_and_RNA
  4. https://biologywise.com/difference-between-dna-rna

DNA vs RNA Video

YouTube video

Differences between DNA and RNA (DNA vs RNA)

About Author

Photo of author

Sagar Aryal

Sagar Aryal is a microbiologist and a scientific blogger. He is doing his Ph.D. at the Central Department of Microbiology, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He was awarded the DAAD Research Grant to conduct part of his Ph.D. research work for two years (2019-2021) at Helmholtz-Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS), Saarbrucken, Germany. Sagar is interested in research on actinobacteria, myxobacteria, and natural products. He is the Research Head of the Department of Natural Products, Kathmandu Research Institute for Biological Sciences (KRIBS), Lalitpur, Nepal. Sagar has more than ten years of experience in blogging, content writing, and SEO. Sagar was awarded the SfAM Communications Award 2015: Professional Communicator Category from the Society for Applied Microbiology (Now: Applied Microbiology International), Cambridge, United Kingdom (UK). Sagar is also the ASM Young Ambassador to Nepal for the American Society for Microbiology since 2023 onwards.

7 thoughts on “DNA vs RNA- Definition and 30 Key Differences”

  1. 30th types of DNA is wrong, it’s actually, Chromosomal DNA (nuclear DNA) and Extra-chromosomal(plasmid DNA, mt- DNA, chl- DNA etc.)


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.