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: a substance in the cells of plants and animals that helps make proteins
Full Definition of RNA
: any of various nucleic acids that contain ribose and uracil as structural components and are associated with the control of cellular chemical activities — compare messenger rna, ribosomal rna, transfer rna
: any of various nucleic acids that contain ribose and uracil as structural components and are associated with the control of cellular chemical activities—called also ribonucleic acid; see messenger rna, ribosomal rna, transfer rna
One of the two main types of nucleic acid (the other being DNA), which functions in cellular protein synthesis in all living cells and replaces DNA as the carrier of genetic information in some viruses. Like DNA, it consists of strands of repeating nucleotides joined in chainlike fashion, but the strands are single (except in certain viruses), and it has the nucleotide uracil (U) where DNA has thymine (T). Messenger RNA (mRNA), a single strand copied from a DNA strand that acts as its template, carries the message of the genetic code from DNA (in chromosomes) to the site of protein synthesis (on ribosomes). Ribosomal RNA (rRNA), part of the building blocks of ribosomes, participates in protein synthesis. Transfer RNA (tRNA), the smallest type, has fewer than 100 nucleotide units (mRNA and rRNA contain thousands). Each nucleotide triplet on mRNA specifies which amino acid comes next on the protein being synthesized, and a tRNA molecule with that triplet's complement on its protruding end brings the specified amino acid to the site of synthesis to be linked into the protein. Various minor types of RNA also exist; at least some act as catalysts (ribozymes), a function long ascribed only to proteins.