Guanine (; or G, Gua) is one of the four main nucleobase
s found in the nucleic acid
, the others being adenine
, and thymine
in RNA). In DNA
, guanine is paired with cytosine. The guanine nucleoside
is called guanosine
With the formula C5
O, guanine is a derivative of purine
, consisting of a fused pyrimidine
ring system with conjugated double bonds. This unsaturated arrangement means the bicyclic molecule
Guanine, along with adenine and cytosine, is present in both DNA and RNA, whereas thymine is usually seen only in DNA, and uracil only in RNA. Guanine has two tautomer
ic forms, the major keto form (see figures) and rare enol form
It binds to cytosine through three hydrogen bond
s. In cytosine, the amino group acts as the hydrogen bond donor and the C-2 carbonyl and the N-3 amine as the hydrogen-bond acceptors. Guanine has the C-6 carbonyl group that acts as the hydrogen bond acceptor, while a group at N-1 and the amino group at C-2 act as the hydrogen bond donors.
Guanine can be hydrolyzed
with strong acid to glycine
, carbon dioxide
, and carbon monoxide
. First, guanine gets deaminated
to become xanthine
. Guanine oxidizes more readily than adenine, the other purine-derivative base in DNA. Its high melting point of 350 °C reflects the intermolecular hydrogen bonding between the oxo and amino groups in the molecules in the crystal. Because of this intermolecular bonding, guanine is relatively insoluble in water, but it is soluble in dilute acids and bases.
The first isolation of guanine was reported in 1844 by the German chemist (1819–1885), who obtained it as a mineral formed from the excreta of sea birds, which is known as guano
and which was used as a source of fertilizer; guanine was named in 1846. Between 1882 and 1906, Fischer determined the structure and also showed that uric acid
can be converted to guanine.
Trace amounts of guanine form by the polymerization
of ammonium cyanide
(). Two experiments conducted by Levy et al. showed that heating 10 mol·L−1
at 80 °C for 24 hours gave a yield of 0.0007%, while using 0.1 mol·L−1
frozen at −20 °C for 25 years gave a 0.0035% yield. These results indicate guanine could arise in frozen regions of the primitive earth. In 1984, Yuasa reported a 0.00017% yield of guanine after the electrical discharge of , , , and 50 mL of water, followed by a subsequent acid hydrolysis. However, it is unknown whether the presence of guanine was not simply a resultant contaminant of the reaction.
O → 2C5
O (guanine) + 25H2
synthesis can also be used to form guanine, along with adenine
, and thymine
. Heating an equimolar gas mixture of CO, H2
, and NH3
to 700 °C for 15 to 24 minutes, followed by quick cooling and then sustained reheating to 100 to 200 °C for 16 to 44 hours with an alumina catalyst, yielded guanine and uracil:
:10CO + H2
O (guanine) + 8H2
Another possible abiotic route was explored by quenching a 90% N2
O gas mixture high-temperature plasma.
involves heating 2,4,5-triamino-1,6-dihydro-6-oxypyrimidine (as the sulfate) with formic acid
for several hours.
Traube purine synthesis
Guanine is not synthesized de novo
, instead it's split from the more complex molecule, guanosine
, by the enzyme guanosine phosphorylase
:guanosine + phosphate
guanine + alpha-D-ribose 1-phosphate
Other occurrences and biological uses
The word guanine derives from the Spanish loanword ''guano'' ("bird/bat droppings"), which itself is from the Quechua
word ''wanu'', meaning "dung". As the Oxford English Dictionary
notes, guanine is "A white amorphous substance obtained abundantly from guano, forming a constituent of the excrement of birds".
In 1656 in Paris, a Mr. Jaquin extracted from the scales of the fish ''Alburnus alburnus''
so-called "pearl essence", which is crystalline guanine. In the cosmetics industry, crystalline guanine is used as an additive to various products (e.g., shampoos), where it provides a pearly iridescent
effect. It is also used in metallic paints and simulated pearls and plastics. It provides shimmering luster to eye shadow and nail polish
. Facial treatments using the droppings, or guano, from Japanese nightingales have been used in Japan and elsewhere, because the guanine in the dropping
s makes the skin look paler. Guanine crystals are rhombic platelets composed of multiple transparent layers, but they have a high index of refraction that partially reflects and transmits light from layer to layer, thus producing a pearly luster. It can be applied by spray, painting, or dipping. It may irritate the eyes. Its alternatives are mica
, faux pearl (from ground shells),
Guanine has a very wide variety of biological uses that include a range of functions ranging in both complexity and versatility. These include camouflage, display, and vision among other purposes.
Spiders, scorpions, and some amphibians convert ammonia, as a product of protein metabolism in the cells, to guanine, as it can be excreted with minimal water loss.
Guanine is also found in specialized skin cells of fish called iridocyte
s (e.g., the sturgeon
as well as being present in the reflective deposits of the eyes of deep-sea fish
and some reptile
s, such as crocodile
On 8 August 2011, a report, based on NASA
studies with meteorites
found on Earth, was published suggesting building blocks of DNA and RNA (guanine, adenine
and related organic molecules
) may have been formed extra-terrestrially in outer space.
* Guanine deaminase
Guanine MS Spectrum