Base Pair

Base Pair

Base pairs are the building blocks of the DNA double helix, and contribute to the folded structure of both DNA and RNA. Dictated by specific hydrogen bonding patterns, Watson-Crick base pairs (guanine-cytosine and adenine-thymine) allow the DNA helix to maintain a regular helical structure that is independent of its nucleotide sequence. The complementary nature of this based-paired structure provides a backup copy of all genetic information encoded within double-stranded DNA. The regular structure and data redundancy provided by the DNA helix make DNA an optimal molecule for the storage of genetic information, while base-pairing between DNA and incoming nucleotides provide the mechanism through which DNA polymerase replicates DNA, and RNA polymerase transcribes DNA into RNA. Many DNA-binding proteins can recognize specific base pairing patterns that identify particular regulatory regions of genes.

Intramolecular base pairs can occur within single-stranded nucleic acids. This is particularly important in RNA molecules (e.g. transfer RNA), where Watson-Crick base pairs (G-C and A-U) permit the formation of short double-stranded helices, and a wide variety of non-Watson-Crick interactions (e.g. G-U or A-A) allow RNAs to fold into a vast range of specific three-dimensional structures. In addition, base-paring between transfer RNA (tRNA) and messenger RNA (mRNA) form the basis for the molecular recognition events that result in the nucleotide sequence of mRNA becoming translated into the amino acid sequence of proteins.

The size of an individual gene or an organism's entire genome is often measured in base pairs because DNA is usually double-stranded. Hence, the number of total base pairs is equal to the number of nucleotides in one of the strands (with the exception of non-coding single-stranded regions of telomeres). The haploid human genome (23 chromosomes) is estimated to be about 3.2 billion base pairs long and to contain 20,000–25,000 distinct genes. A kilobase (kb) is a unit of measurement in molecular biology equal to 1000 base pairs of DNA or RNA.

Read more about Base Pair:  Hydrogen Bonding and Stability, Base Stacking, Base Analogs and Intercalators, Examples

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