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What Is the Purpose of Protein Synthesis?

What Is the Purpose of Protein Synthesis?
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  • 0:03 Definition of Protein…
  • 0:44 Transcription and Translation
  • 2:11 Protein Synthesis in Animals
  • 2:52 Protein Synthesis in Plants
  • 3:41 Protein Synthesis in Bacteria
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb
This lesson will cover the basic steps of protein synthesis. Once we review, we'll look at some key examples of why protein synthesis is important in animals, plants, and bacteria.

Definition of Protein Synthesis

When you picture protein, you might be thinking of elite body builders with their protein shakes, egg whites, and plain chicken. It's true, all of these things contain protein. But when we really come down to it, proteins are tiny molecules inside cells, and they're required for all structure and function inside cells. Without them, our cells couldn't do their jobs and we would die. Like the furniture in your house, proteins wear out over time, so our cells are continuously making new proteins through the process of protein synthesis. Protein synthesis has two main steps: transcription and translation. Let's look at each step in detail next.

Transcription and Translation

DNA is the ultimate blueprint for the cell and holds all the instructions for making proteins. This molecule is so important that the cell wants to make copies of it to use in protein synthesis instead of moving the actual DNA around the cell. Think of DNA like the master copy of a document, like your birth certificate. To get other forms of identification you present a copy of your birth certificate, but not the real thing.

The copy of DNA is called mRNA (or messenger RNA), another molecule that holds information in the cell. The process of transcription copies DNA to mRNA using a protein called RNA polymerase. After the copying, the mRNA is sent to a compartment of the cell called a ribosome, which does the next step, translation.

Ribosomes are compartments of the cell required for protein synthesis. During translation, they read the mRNA and tell another molecule called tRNA (or transfer RNA) to get the building blocks for proteins, or amino acids. The ribosome strings together the amino acids according to the instructions in the mRNA. After all the amino acids are put together, the protein folds up into a functional shape.

Proteins, like we mentioned, are responsible for all structure and function inside cells. All cells need proteins, not just our cells. So next, let's look at some key examples in different types of organisms.

Protein Synthesis in Animals

Humans are a type of animal, so our cells are considered animal cells. To understand how important proteins are in our cells, let's look at an example of what happens if there is a problem with protein synthesis. A protein called Rb, with the full name retinoblastoma protein, is responsible for controlling how often our cells divide, specifically in cells in the retina, an important part of our eyes. If cells divide out of control, we get cancer. Some people have a mutation, or a change in the DNA, in the instructions for making Rb. These people don't have a functional Rb protein, so their cells grow out of control and they get retinoblastoma, or cancer of the eye.

Protein Synthesis in Plants

Plants are a crucial part of our ecosystem as all other organisms depend on plants to get energy. Plants use a process called photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight into oxygen and a sugar called glucose. This happens through a series of chemical reactions that are made possible by proteins.

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