Role of mRNA in Protein Synthesis

Role of mRNA in Protein Synthesis
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  • 0:00 What is Protein Synthesis?
  • 0:40 Why mRNA is Vital
  • 2:15 How is mRNA Produced?
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
How does the message hidden within our DNA actually become something? This lesson discusses the vital role mRNA plays in protein synthesis. It helps explain how DNA is used within a living organism.

What is Protein Synthesis?

You've likely heard of protein, but do you know what it's made of and why it's important? Protein is a chain-like structure made up of sub-units called amino acids. Protein is used for building muscle, repairing tissue, and functioning as enzymes. _Protein synthesis is a series of steps taken by cells to create a functional protein. One vital component exists within each of these different steps. That component is messenger RNA, or mRNA, which is the link between your DNA and creation of an actual protein. Let's explore this concept a little further.

Why mRNA is Vital to Protein Synthesis

The usefulness of mRNA cannot be understated. This is because without mRNA, protein synthesis would be virtually impossible.

Protein Synthesis
Protein Synthesis

In this image, you'll notice a double stranded molecule called DNA, which is shaded blue, contained within the nucleus of the cell. The nucleus is the region of the cell that contains DNA, our genetic information. This DNA doesn't leave the nucleus. It's too large and can't fit through openings within the nucleus itself, so it's basically stuck there. Also, leaving the nucleus increases the likelihood that DNA will be damaged. This is a situation that's best avoided if the cell is to remain healthy. Thus, DNA stays inside the nucleus.

However, there is an organelle called a ribosome that exists outside the nucleus. Organelles are basically the 'organs' of the cell and include things like the nucleus, mitochondria, and other structures. Ribosomes are responsible for reading the message contained in DNA and then synthesizing proteins. But ribosomes can't enter the nucleus. This creates a serious problem: how does the message contained in DNA reach the ribosome whenever the two components can never come in contact? The answer to this is the smaller mRNA molecule. Remember, the 'm' in mRNA stands for messenger. mRNA carries the message coded by our DNA to the ribosome. The ribosome can then read this message and produce protein in a process called translation.

How is mRNA Produced?

So how do cells create a small mRNA molecule that still contains the coded instructions from DNA? First, we need to understand two things: DNA is made from a series of molecules called bases and mRNA is based off the DNA template. Let's investigate these concepts.

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