What is Hydrogen Bonding?

Hydrogen bonding is the chemical interaction that underlies the base-pairing rules described above. Appropriate geometrical correspondence of hydrogen bond donors and acceptors allows only the “right” pairs to form stably. DNA with high GC-content is more stable than DNA with low GC-content, but contrary to popular belief, the hydrogen bonds do not stabilize the DNA significantly since stabilization is mainly due to stacking interactions.
The larger nucleobases, adenine and guanine, are members of a class of doubly-ringed chemical structures called purines; the smaller nucleobases, cytosine and thymine (and uracil), are members of a class of singly-ringed chemical structures, called pyrimidines. Purines are only complementary with pyrimidines: pyrimidine-pyrimidine pairings are energetically unfavorable because the molecules are too far apart for hydrogen bonding to be established; purine-purine pairings are energetically unfavorable because the molecules are too close, leading to overlap repulsion. The only other possible pairings are GU and AC; these pairings are mismatches because the pattern of hydrogen donors and acceptors do not correspond. The GU pairing, with two hydrogen bonds, does occur fairly often in RNA.
Paired DNA and RNA molecules are comparatively stable at room temperature but the two nucleotide strands will separate above a melting point that is determined by the length of the molecules, the extent of mispairing (if any), and the GC content. Higher GC content results in higher melting temperatures; it is therefore unsurprising that the genomes of extremophile organisms, such as Thermus thermophilus which inhabits hotter areas, are particularly GC-rich. Conversely, regions of a genome that need to separate frequently—for example, the promoter regions for often-transcribed genes—are comparatively GC-poor. GC content and melting temperature must also be taken into account when designing primers for PCR reactions.