Organic compound of the pyrimidine family, often called a base, consisting of a ring containing both nitrogen and carbon atoms, and a methyl group. It occurs in combined form in many important biological molecules, particularly DNA (where its complementary base is adenine). It or its corresponding nucleoside or nucleotide may be prepared from DNA by selective techniques of hydrolysis.
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Thymine is one of the four bases in the nucleic acid of DNA that make up the letters ATGC. The others are adenine, guanine, and cytosine. Thymine (T) always pairs with adenine. Thymine is also known as 5-methyluracil, a pyrimidine nucleobase. As the name suggests, thymine may be derived by methylation of uracil at the 5th carbon. In RNA, thymine is replaced with uracil in most cases. In DNA, thymine(T) binds to adenine (A) via two hydrogen bonds to assist in stabilizing the nucleic acid structures.
Thymine combined with deoxyribose creates the nucleoside deoxythymidine, which is synonymous with the term thymidine. Thymidine can be phosphorylated with one, two, or three phosphoric acid groups, creating, respectively, TMP, TDP, or TTP (thymidine mono-, di-, or triphosphate).
One of the common mutations of DNA involves two adjacent thymines or cytosine, which, in presence of ultraviolet light, may form thymine dimers, causing "kinks" in the DNA molecule that inhibit normal function.
Thymine could also be a target for actions of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in cancer treatment. 5-FU can be a metabolic analog of thymine (in DNA synthesis) or uracil (in RNA synthesis). Substitution of this analog inhibits DNA synthesis in actively-dividing cells.
Thymine bases are frequently oxidized to hydantoins over time after the death of an organism.