Nucleobases are a group of nitrogen-based molecules that are required to form nucleotides, the basic building blocks of DNA and RNA. Nucleobases provide the molecular structure necessary for the hydrogen bonding of complementary DNA and RNA strands, and are key components in the formation of stable DNA and RNA molecules.

Nucleobases (or nucleotide bases/nitrogenous bases/aglycones) provide the nucleotide structure necessary to form base pairs. The primary nucleobases are cytosine, guanine, adenine (DNA and RNA), thymine (DNA) and uracil (RNA), abbreviated as C, G, A, T, and U, respectively. They are usually simply called bases in genetics. Because A, G, C, and T appear in the DNA, these molecules are called DNA-bases; A, G, C, and U are called RNA-bases.

Uracil replaces thymine in RNA. These two bases are identical except that uracil lacks the 5' methyl group. Adenine and guanine belong to the double-ringed class of molecules called purines (abbreviated as R). Cytosine, thymine, and uracil are all pyrimidines (abbreviated as Y).

In normal spiral DNA the bases form pairs between the two strands: A with T and C with G. Purines pair with pyrimidines mainly for dimensional reasons - only this combination fits the constant width geometry of the DNA spiral. The A-T and C-G pairings are required to match the hydrogen bonds between the amine and carbonyl groups on the complementary bases.

The compound formed when a nucleobase forms a glycosidic bond with the 1' anomeric carbon of a ribose or deoxyribose is called a nucleoside, and a nucleoside with one or more phosphate groups attached at the 5' carbon is called a nucleotide.

Apart from adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), thymine (T) and uracil (U), DNA and RNA also contain bases that have been modified after the nucleic acid chain has been formed. In DNA, the most common modified base is 5-methylcytosine (m5C). In RNA, there are many modified bases, including those contained in the nucleosides pseudouridine (Ψ), dihydrouridine (D), inosine (I), and 7-methylguanosine (m7G).

Hypoxanthine and xanthine are two of the many bases created through mutagen presence, both of them through deamination (replacement of the amine-group with a carbonyl-group). Hypoxanthine is produced from adenine, xanthine from guanine. In similar manner, deamination of cytosine results in uracil.

In August 2011, a report, based on NASA studies with meteorites found on Earth, was published suggesting nucleobases (such as adenine, guanine, xanthine, hypoxanthine, purine, 2,6-diaminopurine, and 6,8-diaminopurine) may have been formed extraterrestrially in outer space.

Read more about Nucleobase:  Structure, Novel Bases

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