Structure and function of noncanonical nucleobases.
ABSTRACT DNA and RNA contain, next to the four canonical nucleobases, a number of modified nucleosides that extend their chemical information content. RNA is particularly rich in modifications, which is obviously an adaptation to their highly complex and variable functions. In fact, the modified nucleosides and their chemical structures establish a second layer of information which is of central importance to the function of the RNA molecules. Also the chemical diversity of DNA is greater than originally thought. Next to the four canonical bases, the DNA of higher organisms contains a total of four epigenetic bases: m(5) dC, hm(5) dC, f(5) dC und ca(5) dC. While all cells of an organism contain the same genetic material, their vastly different function and properties inside complex higher organisms require the controlled silencing and activation of cell-type specific genes. The regulation of the underlying silencing and activation process requires an additional layer of epigenetic information, which is clearly linked to increased chemical diversity. This diversity is provided by the modified non-canonical nucleosides in both DNA and RNA.