Proteins play a crucial role in the functioning of cells and organisms, performing a wide variety of tasks such as catalyzing chemical reactions, transporting molecules, and providing structural support. But how are these proteins produced? The answer lies in the information contained within our genes.
Genes are segments of DNA that contain the instructions for building proteins. Each gene carries the code for a specific protein, and this code is transcribed and translated by the cell to produce the protein. The process of protein production begins in the cell’s nucleus, where the gene is located.
When a gene is activated, an enzyme called RNA polymerase “reads” the DNA sequence and synthesizes a molecule of messenger RNA (mRNA), which serves as a copy of the gene. This mRNA molecule then exits the nucleus and travels to the cytoplasm, where the actual protein synthesis takes place.
Once in the cytoplasm, the mRNA molecule encounters a cellular structure called a ribosome. The ribosome serves as a “workbench” for protein synthesis, where the information encoded in the mRNA is used to assemble the protein. The ribosome reads the mRNA molecule in groups of three nucleotides called codons, and each codon corresponds to a specific amino acid.