During translation, a small ribosomal subunit attaches to a mRNA molecule. At the same time, an initiator tRNA molecule recognizes and binds to a specific codon sequence on the same mRNA molecule. A large ribosomal subunit then joins the newly formed complex. The initiator tRNA resides in one binding site of the ribosome called the P site, leaving the second binding site, the A site, open. When a new tRNA molecule recognizes the next codon sequence on the mRNA, it attaches to the open A binding site. A peptide bond forms connecting the amino acid attached to the tRNA in the P site to the amino acid attached to the tRNA in the A binding site.
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As the ribosome moves along the mRNA molecule, the tRNA in the P site is released and the tRNA in the A site is translocated to the P site. The A binding site becomes vacant again until another tRNA that recognizes the new mRNA codon takes the open position. This pattern continues as molecules of tRNA are released from the complex, new tRNA molecules attach, and the amino acid chain grows. The ribosome will translate the mRNA molecule until it reaches a termination codon on the mRNA.