The sequence has capacity to represent information. Biological deoxyribonucleic acid represents the information which directs the functions of a living thing.
Nucleic acids also have a secondary structure and tertiary structure. Primary structure is sometimes mistakenly referred to as primary sequence. Conversely, there is no parallel concept of secondary or tertiary sequence.
Nucleic acids consist of a chain of linked units called nucleotides. Each nucleotide consists of three subunits: a phosphate group and a sugar (ribose in the case of RNA, deoxyribose in DNA) make up the backbone of the nucleic acid strand, and attached to the sugar is one of a set of nucleobases. The nucleobases are important in base pairing of strands to form higher-level secondary and tertiary structure such as the famed double helix.
The possible letters are A, C, G, and T, representing the four nucleotide bases of a DNA strand — adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine — covalently linked to a phosphodiester backbone. In the typical case, the sequences are printed abutting one another without gaps, as in the sequence AAAGTCTGAC, read left to right in the 5' to 3' direction. With regards to transcription, a sequence is on the coding strand if it has the same order as the transcribed RNA.
One sequence can be complementary to another sequence, meaning that they have the base on each position in the complementary (i.e. A to T, C to G) and in the reverse order. For example, the complementary sequence to TTAC is GTAA. If one strand of the double-stranded DNA is considered the sense strand, then the other strand, considered the antisense strand, will have the complementary sequence to the sense strand.
Comparing and determining % difference between two nucleotide sequences.
While A, T, C, and G represent a particular nucleotide at a position, there are also letters that represent ambiguity which are used when more than one kind of nucleotide could occur at that position. The rules of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) are as follows: