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What Is RNA Translation?

Jillian O Keeffe
Jillian O Keeffe

The information necessary to build a living organism is encoded in the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of the genome. Cells need to read the DNA and convert it into proteins, which are necessary for life and growth. To do this, they convert the DNA into an intermediate form called ribonucleic acid (RNA). The next step is to convert the RNA into proteins in the process known as RNA translation.

Organisms use DNA, or in some cases RNA, as directions for making everything they need. This essential genetic information is called the genome. The genome is separated into separate sequences called genes, and each code for a specific amino acid.

Anatomical model of the human body
Anatomical model of the human body

Amino acids are the small molecules that, when joined together, make up proteins. A cell needs to avoid destroying the genome because it has to keep the code intact for essential processes. Therefore, on the way to RNA translation, the organism copies the genome into an RNA form first.

Genomes have lots of genes, one after the other, in one or more long strands. The individual components of the genes are molecules called bases. Three bases together form the code for one amino acid.

A gene, therefore, has lots of sets of three bases, which when read in a line, code for a particular protein. Each gene has a few bases at the start and a few at the end that signal the beginning and end of the code for that particular protein. In the initial step of copying the genetic information, only this section of the long strand of DNA is copied as a strand of RNA.

After the genome is copied, the cell has to convert the RNA code into proteins. The RNA that the cell makes as a copy of the DNA is messenger RNA, or mRNA. This RNA is usually a faithful copy of the DNA genes.

The next step is to produce proteins according to the genetic information on the mRNA. This step is RNA translation. Two other types of RNA, apart from mRNA, are involved. Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and transfer RNA (tRNA) are both made from RNA but do not code for anything.

Ribosomal RNA forms a complex with proteins and becomes ribosomes. The job of a ribosome is to stick to the beginning of the mRNA copy of the DNA gene. There, it moves along the mRNA sequence.

As the ribosome moves along the sequence, tRNA brings it the appropriate amino acids that each set of three bases codes for. The amino acids stick together in the correct sequence. When the ribosome reaches the end of the mRNA, it falls off and so does the finished protein at the end of the RNA translation process.

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      Anatomical model of the human body