In contrast to DNA, RNA is a single-stranded polynucleotide that is very susceptible to degradation by base- or enzyme-catalyzed hydrolysis. Working with RNA is more demanding due to both the chemical instability of RNA and because of the ubiquitous presence of RNases. Further, unlike DNases which require metal ions for activity, RNases have no requirement for metal ion co-factors and can maintain activity even after prolonged boiling or autoclaving.
RNases are found everywhere, including on laboratory workers´ hands and in airborne microorganisms. Special precautions must be taken when working with RNA. All reagents and equipment must be specially treated to inactivate RNases prior to use. Below are some tips to help ensure that your laboratory environment is as clean as possible.