RNA stands for Ribonucleic Acid. While it is one of the smallest organelles in the human body, RNA performs countless functions essential to life.
RNA is a type of nucleic acid that is made up of a long strand of nucleotides. It is similar to DNA but differs in its structural makeup. DNA is formed on a double-helix while RNA is formed on a single strand. RNA carries information from DNA to ribosomes. These ribosomes create protein synthesis. So, in effect, RNA is imperative to the creation of proteins. In addition, certain RNAs participate in other functions. These include deciding which gene will dominate in the creation of any living thing.
The nucleotides that make up RNA have three components: A sugar with 5 carbons, a Phosphoric Acid, and an organic base. Though all RNAs are the same in structure, they differ in purpose. Messenger RNA is a copy of the genetic material found in DNA. It carries this information to the cytoplasm where it is transferred to the ribosomes responsible for the creation of protein. Transfer RNA is found in short chains of nucleotides. There are twenty different varieties of this type of RNA. Each of these performs a different task by carrying a specific amino acid in specific order. Ribosomal RNA is a part of ribosomes. They are the site of polypeptide creation. Heterogeneous RNAs are found in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells. They later form into messenger RNAs by splitting.
Some RNA is different in that it is made up of two strands rather than one. This type of RNA is called Viral RNA. These are created when one RNA pairs with another one. When these types of RNA enter a cell they can become viruses. Examples include Polio Virus and the Colorado Tick Fever Virus. Both of these viruses are double stranded RNAs. Other types of RNA called retroviruses create immunodeficiencies in humans. This will eventually lead to the formation of viruses such as HIV, which causes AIDS or other viruses that can cause tumors.
The discovery of RNA and its functions is accredited to numerous scientists. Severo Ochoa discovered how RNA synthesizes proteins. For this discovery, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1959. In 1967, Carl Woese learned that the earliest life forms known to mankind relied on RNA, rather than DNA to carry the genetic material. Finally, in 1976 Walter Fiers and his team found the RNA that carries genomes of viruses. This virus is known as E. coli.