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Pentose sugars in nucleic acids

A pentose sugar is a ring-shaped sugar with five carbon atoms (from the Ancient Greek pente). They are one of the three components of nucleic acids (together with the phosphate group and a nucleic base).

The carbon atoms are numbered from 1 to 5. When the sugar is part of a nucleic acid the numbers are 1' (read "one prime") to 5'.

There are two important pentose sugars in genetics. The nucleic acids are named for the sugars:

  • Deoxyribose is the sugar in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
  • Ribose is the sugar in ribonucleic acid (RNA).

Ribose and deoxyribose differ only in the functional group on the second (2') carbon atom. Ribose has an $$\ce{-OH}$$ group and deoxyribose has a simple hydrogen attached to the carbon.