What Is the Site of Protein Synthesis?

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  • 0:03 What is Protein?
  • 1:00 Where is Protein Made?
  • 2:48 Why Is Protein Important?
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
Whether you are digesting food, fighting off disease, building muscle, or healing from a cut, protein plays a vital role. This lesson will introduce protein synthesis and explain where this process occurs.

What Is Protein?

When you eat meat, nuts, or dairy products, your body generally receives high concentrations of protein from those foods. Protein is a large molecule made from amino acid subunits arranged in a chain-like fashion. Basically, this means that protein is like a chain and amino acids are like the links that form the chain. Here's an image for visual reference:

Protein structure
Protein Structure

Protein is one of four macromolecules found in living organisms. Macromolecules are large molecules that serve a variety of functions within living organisms. The other three types of macromolecules are carbohydrates, lipids (fats), and nucleic acids like DNA, and much like these, protein serves various purposes. However, before we discuss those purposes, let's take a closer look at how this protein is produced to begin with.

Where Is Protein Made?

Now that you know what protein looks like, let's turn our attention to where protein is made. Protein is assembled inside cells by an organelle called a ribosome. Ribosomes are found in every major cell type and are the site of protein synthesis. Below is an illustration of your basic body cell. Inside, you'll notice small circular structures--those are ribosomes, where protein is being synthesized.

Ribosomes inside the cell
Ribosomes inside the Cell

Your cells contain lots of ribosomes. Some are free floating, like in the image above, and others are attached to structures. In either case, their function is the same: to make protein. Here's how it works.

Protein is based off instructions contained inside your DNA. However, DNA itself cannot leave the cell nucleus. This might not be such a problem if ribosomes were able to enter the cell nucleus. So how do ribosomes go about reading the instructions inside DNA if they never come into contact with DNA? The answer lies in a molecule called messenger RNA, or mRNA for short. The mRNA is essentially a messenger molecule built using DNA as a template. This means it contains the same information as DNA (such as how to make a protein).

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