Deoxyribose: Definition & Structure

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  • 0:00 Deoxyribose
  • 1:00 Structure
  • 2:00 Importance
  • 3:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
This lesson covers the definition and structure of deoxyribose, a pentose sugar. Deoxyribose is crucial to the function of human DNA, which is found in all living organisms, like us!


Deoxyribose is a sugar, although not the kind we usually think of when we're sweetening our coffee. Deoxyribose is a monosaccharide. Monosaccharides are the building blocks for more complicated sugars. Here, 'mono' means 'one,' and 'saccharide' means 'sugar.'

Deoxyribose is also known more precisely as 2-deoxyribose and is a component of DNA. Any molecule that ends in 'ose' is considered a sugar. The chemical formula for deoxyribose is C5 H10 O4. This might look complicated, but the letters represent the names of elements from the periodic table, and the numbers (presented in subscript) tell us how many of each of these elements make up a particular compound. So, this formula means that deoxyribose is made of 5 carbon atoms, 10 hydrogen atoms, and 4 oxygen atoms. Atoms can be found everywhere and are the basic chemical elements of life.


Deoxyribose consists of five carbon atoms that form a pentagonal shape. As you can tell by its name, deoxyribose is a particular type of sugar known as a pentose monosaccharide, which contains five carbon atoms. Ribose, which is contained in the name, is also considered a pentose monosaccharide. It's a normal sugar that has one oxygen atom attached to each carbon atom. Chemically, what separates ribose from deoxyribose is that ribose contains an additional oxygen atom.

Deoxyribose is specially structured so that other molecules, or groups of atoms, can attach to it and complete a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequence. Think of deoxyribose as having an open spot that can take on an atom; something ribose cannot do because of its additional oxygen atom. Deoxyribose is considered a modified sugar because it only has four oxygen atoms. Ribose and deoxyribose are involved in creating DNA and ribonucleic acid (RNA), which we will discuss later.

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