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DNA Transcription

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DNA Transcription
National Human Genome Research Institute

DNA Transcription

National Human Genome Research Institute
DNA transcription is a process that involves transcribing genetic information from DNA to RNA. The transcribed DNA message, or RNA transcript, is used to produce proteins. DNA is housed within the nucleus of our cells. It controls cellular activity by coding for the production of proteins. The information in DNA is not directly converted into proteins, but must first be copied into RNA. This ensures that the information contained within the DNA does not become tainted.

DNA Transcription

DNA consists of four nucleotide bases [adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T)] that are paired together (A-T and C-G) to give DNA its double helical shape. Nucleotide base sequences are the genetic code or instructions for protein synthesis.

There are three main steps to the process of DNA transcription.
  • RNA Polymerase Binds to DNA

    DNA is transcribed by an enzyme called RNA polymerase. Specific nucleotide sequences tell RNA polymerase where to begin and where to end. RNA polymerase attaches to the DNA at a specific area called the promoter region.

  • Elongation

    Certain proteins called transcription factors unwind the DNA strand and allow RNA polymerase to transcribe only a single strand of DNA into a single stranded RNA polymer called messenger RNA (mRNA). The strand that serves as the template is called the antisense strand. The strand that is not transcribed is called the sense strand.

    Like DNA, RNA is composed of nucleotide bases. RNA however, contains the nucleotides adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil (U). When RNA polymerase transcribes the DNA, guanine pairs with cytosine and adenine pairs with uracil.

  • Termination

    RNA polymerase moves along the DNA until it reaches a terminator sequence. At that point, RNA polymerase releases the mRNA polymer and detaches from the DNA.
Since proteins are constructed in the cytoplasm of the cell, mRNA must cross the nuclear membrane to reach the cytoplasm. Once in the cytoplasm, ribosomes and another RNA molecule called transfer RNA work together to translate mRNA into a protein. This process is called translation. Proteins can be manufactured in large quantities because a single DNA sequence can be transcribed by many RNA polymerase molecules at once.

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