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What Is the Role of DNA in Protein Synthesis?

What Is the Role of DNA in Protein Synthesis?
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  • 0:01 DNA & Protein Synthesis I
  • 0:59 Structure of DNA
  • 2:06 Why Cells Need mRNA
  • 2:58 DNA & Protein Synthesis II
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
What purpose does DNA serve inside the cell? How does DNA contribute to protein synthesis? Learn the answers to these questions and more in this lesson.

DNA and Protein Synthesis I

To begin, let's ask ourselves this question: 'What makes your biological characteristics different than those of your friends, parents, or siblings?' The answer is that your DNA is unique. DNA is the primary genetic material contained within your cells and in nearly all organisms. It's used to create proteins during protein synthesis, which is a multi-step process that takes the coded message of DNA and converts it into a usable protein molecule.

While that may sound confusing, the process can be broken down into simple steps. The first of these steps is the one that utilizes DNA and it's called transcription, which is the process of using DNA to create messenger RNA, also simply called mRNA. This mRNA is a molecule that carries DNA's coded instructions for making a protein. Let's break down the process of transcription below and further explore DNA's role in protein synthesis.

Structure of DNA

To understand the role of DNA in protein synthesis, we first need to understand the basic structure of DNA. DNA is constructed as a double helix. To picture this, think of a twisted ladder, as you can see in this image:

Structure of DNA

At the front of this image, the molecule is unwound, so you can see the bonding pattern of DNA's bases, which are the subunits of DNA it is built from. There are four bases - adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine - and each is usually represented by the first letter in their name: A, T, C, and G, respectively. When combined, these bases form your genetic code.

They are arranged on two different strands (the two sides of the twisted ladder). The code on one strand dictates the code on the opposite strand, because the bases pair up in a specific pattern. Adenine (A) always pairs with thymine (T), and cytosine (C) always pairs with guanine (G). This pattern is important because it will serve as the template for making our mRNA molecule. But first, let's consider this question: 'Why must cells produce mRNA?'

Why Cells Need mRNA

So far we've learned that:

  1. DNA is the genetic material within cells.
  2. DNA is used to build protein.
  3. DNA is built like a twisted ladder.

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