Structural Biochemistry/Nucleic Acid/Nitrogenous Bases/Purines/Guanine

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Guanine base. The NH group is bonded to the sugar within the nucleotide, and the other groups participate in hydrogen bonding to cytosine.

Guanine is among the five nucleobases that is found in DNA and RNA. The formula of guanine is C5H5N5O, and is a planar and bicyclic molecule. Guanine has two forms, keto and enol forms. The keto form is the major form. Guanine, like adenine, is a derivative of purine and binds to cytosine through 3 hydrogen bonds. The amino group in the cytosine is the hydrogen donor and the C2 carbonyl and the N3 amine are the hydrogen-bond acceptors. In Guanine, the group at C6 acts as the hydrogen accepter, and the group at N1 and the amino group at C2 act as the hydrogen donors. The related nucleoside containing guanine and ribose is called guanosine and guanine bound to deoxyribose sugar is called deoxyguanosine.

Guanine is capable of being hydrolyzed by strong acids to form ammonia, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and glycine. Guanine oxidizes more readily than adenine, another purine-derivative nitrogenous base in nucleic acids. Guanine has a high melting point of 350°C due to the intermolecular hydrogen bonds between the oxo and amino groups in the crystal of the molecule. Also because of this intermolecular bonding, guanine is relatively insoluble in water as well as in weak acids and bases.

DNA base pair bonding[edit]

Base pair GC.svg

From the image on the left, it can be seen that Guanine and Cytosine bond together through noncovalent hydrogen bonding at three distinct sites. Since Cytosin to Guanine has 3 H-bonds and Adenine to Thymine has 2 H-bonds, a higher CG content leads to higher melting point when compare with AT content. An interesting note is that Watson and Crick first hypothesized that Guanine and Cytosine bonded together through hydrogen bonding at two distinct sites. [1]


Guanine may go through tautomerization, interchanging from the keto to the enol functionality by intermolecular proton transfer.


Guanine is also the name of the white amorphous substance found in fish scales. It serves as an additive to various products such as shampoos, metallic paints, and simulated pearls and plastics providing a pearly iridescent effect. Also, it adds a shimmering luster to eye shadow and nail polish. This pearly luster is produced by the crystalline form of guanine which are rhombic platelets composed of multiple transparent layers that have a high index of refraction that partially reflects and transmits light from layer to layer. To provide this effect, it can be applied by spraying, painting, or dipping.


  1. Crick, Francis H. (Aril 1953). "Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids". Nature 171: pp. 737-738. 

Berg, Jeremy M. John L. Tymoczko. Lubert Stryer. Biochemistry Sixth Edition. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 2007.