Role of RNA Molecules: Definition & Functions

Role of RNA Molecules: Definition & Functions
Coming up next: The Evolution of Prokaryotes: Archaebacteria and Eubacteria

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is RNA?
  • 1:06 Main Function of RNA
  • 2:45 Other Functions of RNA
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

DNA gets all of the glory, but RNA is equally important. This lesson will examine RNA's role in protein synthesis, as well as its ability to act as an enzyme.

What Is RNA?

You've probably heard of DNA, right? Yep, DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, gets all of the glory. It is the blueprint for life, after all. I mean, it holds all of the information to build and maintain you! But what about RNA, or ribonucleic acid? RNA is actually quite a bit like DNA and is equally important.

So what are the differences between the two? Although they are both made up of a phosphate group, a five-carbon sugar and nitrogenous bases, DNA is double stranded whereas RNA is single stranded. The five-carbon sugar in DNA is called deoxyribose and the five-carbon sugar in RNA is called ribose, which is how they get their different names. Both RNA and DNA have the bases adenine, guanine and cytosine, but DNA's fourth base is thymine and RNA's is uracil.

Main Function of RNA

Now that you know what RNA is made up of, let's spend some time discussing the function of it in your body. There are actually three types of RNA: messenger RNA, ribosomal RNA, and transfer RNA. Let's begin with messenger RNA, or mRNA, which is a copy of a section of DNA. During protein synthesis, or the making of proteins, a section of DNA is copied through a process called transcription. So, why bother copying the DNA? Well, DNA needs to remain in the nucleus for safekeeping, but since it is the blueprint your body still needs the information it holds. Instead of taking the blueprint out of the nucleus where it can get harmed, your body makes a copy of it.

This copy, the mRNA, then leaves the nucleus of the cell and undergoes translation, which means the mRNA is read and the correct ingredients are gathered to make the proteins, which are needed for all sorts of things, from the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood to the keratin that makes your fingernails.

The mRNA then heads towards a ribosome, which is a structure inside of the cell. Ribosomal RNA (rRNA), moves along the mRNA and helps build the protein. Transfer RNA (tRNA), is found on the ends of the amino acids, and it brings the correct amino acid to the ribosome.

To help you better grasp this rather complex terminology, think of mRNA as a recipe and tRNA as a grocery-getter who fetches all of the ingredients for the recipe, with rRNA being the chef who mixes all the ingredients in the right order.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support