Base pair

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In molecular biology, two nucleotides on opposite complementary DNA or RNA strands that are connected via hydrogen bonds are called a base pair (often abbreviated bp). In the canonical Watson-Crick DNA base pairing, adenine (A) forms a base pair with thymine (T) and guanine (G) forms a base pair with cytosine (C). In RNA, thymine is replaced by uracil (U). Alternate hydrogen bonding patterns, such as the wobble base pair and Hoogsteen base pair, also occur—particularly in RNA—giving rise to complex and functional tertiary structures. Importantly, pairing is the mechanism by which codons on messenger RNA molecules are recognized by anticodons on transfer RNA during protein translation. Some DNA- or RNA-binding enzymes can recognize specific base pairing patterns that identify particular regulatory regions of genes.

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 billion base pairs long and to contain 20,000–25,000 distinct genes.[1] A kilobase (kb) is a unit of measurement in molecular biology equal to 1000 base pairs of DNA or RNA.[citation needed]

Contents

Hydrogen bonding and stability

Hydrogen bonding is the chemical interaction that underlies the base-pairing rules described above. Appropriate geometrical correspondence of hydrogen bond donors and acceptors allows only the "right" pairs to form stably. DNA with high GC-content is more stable than DNA with low GC-content, but contrary to popular belief, the hydrogen bonds do not stabilize the DNA significantly and stabilization is mainly due to stacking interactions.[2]

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