Answer to Question #51634 in Molecular Biology for DR P P SINGH
what are the reasons for the absence of thymine in RNA and absence of uracil in DNA?
One major problem with using uracil as a base is that cytosine can be deaminated, which converts it into uracil. This is not a rare reaction; it happens around 100 times per cell, per day. This is no major problem when using thymine, as the cell can easily recognize that the uracil doesn't belong there and can repair it by substituting it by a cytosine again. There is an enzyme, uracil DNA glycosylase, that does exactly that; it excises uracil bases from double-stranded DNA. It can safely do that as uracil is not supposed to be present in the DNA and has to be the result of a base modification. Now, if we would use uracil in DNA it would not be so easy to decide how to repair that error. It would prevent the usage of this important repair pathway. The inability to repair such damage doesn't matter for RNA as the mRNA is comparatively short-lived and any potential errors don't lead to any lasting damage. It matters a lot for DNA as the errors are continued through every replication. Now, this explains why there is an advantage to using thymine in DNA, it doesn't explain why RNA uses uracil.