Thursday, January 21, 2010

Transcription is the synthesis of RNA under the direction of DNA. RNA synthesis, or transcription, is the process of transcribing DNA nucleotide sequence information into RNA sequence information. Both nucleic acid sequences use complementary language, and the information is simply transcribed, or copied, from one molecule to the other. DNA sequence is enzymatically copied by RNA polymerase to produce a complementary nucleotide RNA strand, called messenger RNA (mRNA), because it carries a genetic message from the DNA to the protein-synthesizing machinery of the cell.

One significant difference between RNA and DNA sequence is the presence of U, or uracil in RNA instead of the T, or thymine of DNA. In the case of protein-encoding DNA, transcription is the first step that usually leads to the expression of the genes, by the production of the mRNA intermediate, which is a faithful transcript of the gene's protein-building instruction. The stretch of DNA that is transcribed into an RNA molecule is called a transcription unit.

A DNA transcription unit that is translated into protein contains sequences that direct and regulate protein synthesis in addition to coding the sequence that is translated into protein. The regulatory sequence that is before (upstream (-), towards the 5' DNA end) the coding sequence is called 5' untranslated region (5'UTR), and sequence found following (downstream (+), towards the 3' DNA end) the coding sequence is called 3' untranslated region (3'UTR). Transcription has some proofreading mechanisms, but they are fewer and less effective than the controls for copying DNA; therefore, transcription has a lower copying fidelity than DNA replication.

As in DNA replication, RNA is synthesized in the 5' → 3' direction (from the point of view of the growing RNA transcript). Only one of the two DNA strands is transcribed. This strand is called the template strand, because it provides the template for ordering the sequence of nucleotides in an RNA transcript. The other strand is called the coding strand, because its sequence is the same as the newly created RNA transcript (except for uracil being substituted for thymine). The DNA template strand is read 3' → 5' by RNA polymerase and the new RNA strand is synthesized in the 5'→ 3' direction.

A polymerase binds to the 3' end of a gene (promoter) on the DNA template strand and travels toward the 5' end.


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