Alkaline Hydrolysis of RNA

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  • 0:02 What Is Hydrolysis?
  • 0:55 What Are Alkalines?
  • 2:37 What Is RNA?
  • 3:59 What Is Alkaline…
  • 5:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Darla Reed

Darla has taught undergraduate Enzyme Kinetics and has a doctorate in Basic Medical Science

In this lesson, you'll discover the meaning of alkaline and hydrolysis. You'll also be reminded of what RNA is, and you'll learn what exactly alkaline hydrolysis of RNA is and how it works.

What Is Hydrolysis?

Water, water everywhere. Water is everywhere in and around us. We use water to do a multitude of things, from showering to laundry to cooking. Speaking of cooking, have you ever made something and ended up with it stuck all over the pan? What was the easiest way to get the gunk off? Usually, soaking the pan in water overnight easily removes the gunk.

Hydrolysis is similar to soaking a pan in water to remove stuck on gunk. 'Hydro' means water and 'lysis' means to break down; thus hydrolysis is using water to separate molecules. In the case of hydrolysis, it often breaks a covalent bond. Covalent bonds are one way atoms attach to each other, like two people handcuffed together. So if hydrolysis has to do with water, what does alkaline mean?

What Are Alkalines?

Water (H2O) is composed of two hydrogens (H) and one oxygen (O), and when separated it becomes a proton (H+) and a hydroxide ion (OH-).

When H2O is used to break bonds, often the H+ will go with one molecule while the OH- goes with the other. The components of water are frequently separated and found in other molecules, like hydrochloric acid (HCl) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH).

If you add HCl to water, the number of H+ molecules present in the solution will be more than the OH- and Cl-. The opposite becomes true with the addition of NaOH to water; there is more OH- in the solution than H+ or Na+. Scientists like to measure the amount of H+ in a solution and give the solution a value called pH, which indicates the relative amount of H+ present.

When equal amounts of H+ and OH- are present, like with water, the pH is around 7.0 and the solution is considered neutral. A low pH indicates that the solution has lots of H+ and is termed acidic. Lemon juice, for example, is acidic since it has a pH around 2.

When few H+ are present and there is more OH- floating around, the pH is high. Alkaline is a condition where the pH is high. Bleach, for instance, has a pH of around 13 and can be considered alkaline. Now that we know what hydrolysis and alkaline are, let's talk RNA.

What Is RNA?

Surely with all the hype about forensic science, you've heard of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). So it's time to talk about that other nucleic acid, RNA. Ribonucleic acid, or RNA, is also very important in the functioning of cells, your body, and life as we know it. It's responsible for making proteins and acts as a translator, messenger, and even gene activator. It's the difference between DNA and RNA that makes this possible, despite the fact that RNA is just like DNA in many aspects.

RNA can form a helical structure like DNA and, though usually single-stranded, can be double-stranded at times. It has a phosphate (PO4) backbone that connects to different nucleosides. Nucleosides are a sugar and a base.

There are four main bases for DNA, and RNA has almost the same bases, except instead of thymine (T), it uses uracil (U). There is also one big difference in the sugars of RNA and DNA. RNA's sugar, called ribose, has an extra alcohol (OH) group that DNA doesn't have. It may not seem like much, but this is one of the main reasons why RNA functions so much differently from DNA. It's also what makes it more vulnerable to attack than DNA.

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