Uracil ( /ˈjʊərəsɪl/) one of the four nucleobases in the nucleic acid of RNA that are represented by the letters A, G, C and U. The others areadenine, cytosine, and guanine. In RNA, uracil (U) binds to adenine (A) via two hydrogen bonds. In DNA, the uracil nucleobase is replaced bythymine.
Uracil is a common and naturally occurring pyrimidine derivative. Originally discovered in 1900, it was isolated by hydrolysis of yeast nucleinthat was found in bovine thymus and spleen, herring sperm, and wheat germ. It is a planar, unsaturated compound that has the ability to absorb light.
Studies reported in 2008, based on 12C/13C isotopic ratios of organic compounds found in the Murchison meteorite, suggested that uracil,xanthine and related molecules were formed extraterrestrially.
In 2012 an analysis of data from the Cassini mission orbiting in the Saturn system showed that Titan’s surface composition may include uracil.
In RNA, uracil base-pairs with adenine and replaces thymine during DNA transcription. Methylation of uracil produces thymine. In DNA, the evolutionary substitution of thymine for uracil may have increased DNA stability and improved the efficiency of DNA replication. Uracil pairs with adenine through hydrogen bonding. When base pairing with adenine, uracil acts as both a hydrogen bond acceptor and a hydrogen bond donor. In RNA, uracil binds with a ribose sugar to form the ribonucleoside uridine. When a phosphate attaches to uridine, uridine 5′-monophosphate is produced.
Uracil undergoes amide-imidic acid tautomeric shifts because any nuclear instability the molecule may have from the lack of formal aromaticityis compensated by the cyclic-amidic stability. The amide tautomer is referred to as the lactam structure, while the imidic acid tautomer is referred to as the lactim structure. These tautomeric forms are predominant at pH 7. The lactam structure is the most common form of uracil.
Uracil tautomers: Amide or lactamstructure (left) and imide or lactimstructure (right)
Uracil also recycles itself to form nucleotides by undergoing a series of phosphoribosyltransferase reactions. Degradation of uracil produces the substrates aspartate, carbon dioxide, and ammonia.
- C4H4N2O2 → H3NCH2CH2COO- + NH4+ + CO2
Oxidative degradation of uracil produces urea and maleic acid in the presence of H2O2 and Fe2+ or in the presence of diatomic oxygen and Fe2+.
Uracil is a weak acid. The first site of ionization of uracil is not known. The negative charge is placed on the oxygen anion and produces a pKaof less than or equal to 12. The basic pKa = -3.4, while the acidic pKa = 9.389. In the gas phase, uracil has 4 sites that are more acidic than water.
In a scholarly article published in October 2009, NASA scientists reported having reproduced uracil from pyrimidine by exposing it to ultraviolet light under space-like conditions. This suggests that one possible natural original source for uracil in the RNA world could have beenpanspermia.
There are many laboratory syntheses of uracil available. The first reaction is the simplest of the syntheses, by adding water to cytosine to produce uracil and ammonia. The most common way to synthesize uracil is by the condensation of maleic acid with urea in fuming sulfuric acid as seen below also. Uracil can also be synthesized by a double decomposition of thiouracil in aqueous chloroacetic acid.
- C4H5N3O + H2O → C4H4N2O2 + NH3
- C4H4O4 + CH4N2O → C4H4N2O2 + 2 H2O + CO
Photodehydrogenation of 5,6-diuracil, which is synthesized by beta-alanine reacting with urea, produces uracil.
Uracil readily undergoes regular reactions including oxidation, nitration, and alkylation. While in the presence of phenol (PhOH) and sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), uracil can be visualized in the blue region of UV light. Uracil also has the capability to react with elemental halogens because of the presence of more than one strongly electron donating group.
Chemical structure of uridine
Uracil readily undergoes addition to ribose sugars and phosphates to partake in synthesis and further reactions in the body. Uracil becomes uridine, uridine monophosphate (UMP), uridine diphosphate (UDP), uridine triphosphate (UTP), and uridine diphosphate glucose (UDP-glucose). Each one of these molecules is synthesized in the body and has specific functions.
When uracil reacts with anhydrous hydrazine, a first-order kinetic reaction occurs and the ring of uracil opens up. If the pH of the reaction increases to >10.5, the uracil anion forms, making the reaction go much slower. The same slowing of the reaction occurs if the pH decreases because of the protonation of the hydrazine. The reactivity of uracil is unchanged even if the temperature changes.
Uracil can be used for drug delivery and as a pharmaceutical. When elemental fluorine is reacted with uracil, 5-fluorouracil is produced. 5-Fluorouracil is an anticancer drug (antimetabolite) used to masquerade as uracil during the nucleic acid replication process. Because 5-Fluorouracil is similar in shape to, but does not perform the same chemistry as, uracil, the drug inhibits RNA replication enzymes, thereby eliminating RNA synthesis and stopping the growth of cancerous cells. Uracil can also be used in the synthesis of caffeine 
Uracil’s use in the body is to help carry out the synthesis of many enzymes necessary for cell function through bonding with riboses and phosphates. Uracil serves as allosteric regulator andcoenzyme for reactions in the human body and in plants. UMP controls the activity of carbamoyl phosphate synthetase and aspartate transcarbamoylase in plants, while UDP and UTP requlate CPSase II activity in animals. UDP-glucose regulates the conversion of glucose to galactose in the liver and other tissues in the process of carbohydrate metabolism. Uracil is also involved in the biosynthesis of polysaccharides and the transportation of sugars containing aldehydes.
It can also increase the risk for cancer in cases in which the body is extremely deficient in folate. The deficiency in folate leads to increased ratio of deoxyuracilmonophosphates(dUMP)/deoxythyminemonophosphates (dTMP) and uracil misincorporation into DNA and eventually low production of DNA.
Uracil can be used to determine microbial contamination of tomatoes. The presence of uracil is an indication of lactic acid bacteria contamination in the fruit. Uracil derivatives containing a diazine ring are used in pesticides. Uracil derivatives are more often used as antiphotosynthetic herbicides, destroying weeds in cotton, sugar beet, turnips, soya, peas,sunflower crops, vineyards, berry plantations, and orchards.
In yeast, uracil concentrations are inversely proportional to uracil permease