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RNA Lesson for Kids

Instructor: April DeBord

April has taught Spanish and English as a Second Language and she has her Ed. S. in Foreign Language Education.

Ribonucleic Acid, or RNA, is essential to your health, but it doesn't get as much attention as its twin, DNA. Let's discuss RNA and how it's made as well as the three forms of RNA and how they work together to make proteins.

RNA: A Copy of DNA

If RNA and DNA were human twins, DNA would be the popular and exciting one. Everybody knows about DNA--that it holds all of the information that makes up the entire living organism, and it sits comfortably in the nucleus of the cell. But RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is the lesser-known twin, and the hard worker of the two.

OK, so DNA and RNA aren't human, but they are like twins. RNA is a copy, or a transcription, of DNA. See, the DNA is very important, since it holds the information needed for making new cells and maintaining life, so it never leaves the nucleus. The RNA is the one that goes out to do work throughout the cell. It's also super important because without RNA our bodies would not be able to make proteins, which make up about 20% of our bodies.

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Transcription: How RNA Is Made

The process of making the copy from the DNA is called transcription. This is important to making proteins! The DNA, which is a double helix, is transcribed or copied, into a single helix--the RNA. The RNA then takes on one of three forms:

Ribosomal RNA, or rRNA, helps make up the ribosome. The ribosome is the protein factory of the cell.

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, carries the blueprint copied from the cell's original DNA. It's like a piece of mail sent to the ribosomes, providing instructions on how to build proteins. Don't worry, it doesn't need a stamp!

Transfer RNA, or tRNA, is also part of the way a cell builds proteins--it does the heavy lifting. Think of tRNA like a dump truck that brings the amino acid (the raw material for making proteins) to the ribosome.

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