DNA vs. RNA vs. Mitochondria

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Difference between DNA, RNA and Mitochondria

Most of us have some kind of vague idea about the terms DNA, RNA and Mitochondria, if only as it pertains to crime solving on television, and paternity suits. The truth is, all three exist with the cells of living things, and each has a specific function. We will look the three, and compare their structure, location and function. DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid contains the blueprint for all living things. RNA or Ribonucleic Acid assists DNA in several functions. Mitochondria are organs working at the cellular level called an organelle.



DNA is a chemical structure composed of sugars phosphates and bases, formed in alternating patterns. The pattern is what dictates the genetic differences we experience. RNA and DNA look similar but DNA forms the familiar double helix while RNA has only a single helix. Each uses four base chemicals, sharing adenine, cytosine, and guanine, with RNA using Uracil and DNA using Thymine. DNA can create copies of itself. Mitochondria are either circular or oval shaped, with an outer skin or membrane, covering an inner one that contains many folds. In addition to the two membranes, three spaces make up the rest of the mitochondrion. They are the space between the two membranes, the space between the folds of the inner membrane, and the space inside the inner membrane. Mitochondria vary in size, and number dependent upon the type of cell.


DNA is found in the nucleus and mitochondria of the cell. RNA begins its existence in the nucleus, but may move to the cytoplasm to complete its mission. Mitochondria live within the cytoplasm of the cell, which is the part between the cell nucleus and the cell wall.


DNA contains our genetic code. Everything we need to be a healthy human being is contained in that microscopic double helix strand. During reproduction half a child's DNA comes from the mother and half from the father. Mitochondrial DNA only comes from the mother. Depending on its type, RNA has on of three functions: making temporary copies of DNA for protein creation, (mRNA), translating DNA code (tRNA), and aiding in protein production by deciphering the mRNA. (rRNA). Mitochondria have numerous functions but the main one is the creation of Adenosine Tri Phosphate or ATP, which is used for energy. Mitochondria are also involved with metabolism at the cellular level, calcium ion storage, and may be involved with cell death.


DNA, RNA and Mitochondria are necessary for life, but each have there own distinct structure, location and purpose.

  • DNA and RNA , yet distinctly different chemical structures while mitochondria are organelles
  • DNA resides in the cell nucleus and within the Mitochondria, RNA can be in either the nucleus or the cytoplasm depending on their function, and Mitochondria stay in the cytoplasm
  • DNA is the master plan, RNA delivers messages from the DNA, and mitochondria provide fuel for the entire operation.
  • One could say DNA has one function, RNA has three and Mitochondria have many.

comments 1 Comments

  • Shayna . 3+ yrs. ago

Thats my favorite topic... i just love studying biology. Genetics being my favorite i would like to tell everyone that the mitochondrial DNA resembles the DNA of bacteria. It is considered that the mitochondrion is the vestige of bacterial endosymbionts that were incorporated into the cytoplasm of the host cells some time in the planet's evolutionary past.

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