Deoxyribose is a five-carbon sugar (pentose) derived from the sugar ribose by the removal of one oxygen atom. Ribose has a five member ring composed of four carbon atoms and one oxygen. Hydroxyl groups are attached to three of the carbons. The other carbon and a hydroxyl group are attached to one of the carbon atoms adjacent to the oxygen. In deoxyribose, the carbon furthest from the attached carbon is stripped of the oxygen atom in what would be a hydroxyl group in ribose. Sugars are members of a group of chemical compounds called carbohydrates.

Deoxyribose, like ribose, is capable of forming long chains of linked molecules. Genetic material in earthly life consists of chains of deoxyribose (chromosomes) with the nucleotides adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine attached. This material is known as deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA for short. Some sections of genetic DNA (genes) serve as scripts for constructing lengths of RNA. The RNA in turn constitutes scripts for constructing the proteins, enzymes, etc. that determine how a living creature develops and functions.