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Protein synthesis is a fancy term that means making protein. In this lesson, we’ll learn about protein synthesis and the two steps of this process: transcription and translation.

What Is Protein Synthesis?

When you want to make a cake, you follow a recipe. That recipe tells you what ingredients to use and what equipment you’ll need, like a mixer and bowl. When the cells of your body want to make protein, they follow a recipe.Protein synthesis is a term that means making protein. The recipe for protein synthesis uses ingredients like mRNA, tRNA, and amino acids as well as a special piece of equipment called a ribosome.

In this lesson, we’ll talk about how your cells use the ingredients of protein synthesis to build new proteins inside of ribosomes.

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How Does Protein Synthesis Work?

There are a lot of different proteins in your body, and each protein has its own secret code. That secret code is found inside the nucleus of your cells in a molecule called DNA. To make a new protein, the secret code has to be smuggled out of the nucleus and get into a ribosome, which is a protein-making organelle. Organelles are like tiny factories inside your cells that take care of the cells’ needs.To get the secret code from the nucleus to the ribosome, we need a messenger. The messenger that carries the genetic information from the nucleus to the ribosome is called messenger RNA, or mRNA for short.

Transcription

There are two steps of protein synthesis: transcription and translation. mRNA is made during the first step of protein synthesis, which is transcription. If you transcribe something, it means you write it down. So, in this step, the DNA’s genetic information, or secret code, gets written onto a strand of mRNA. Remember that DNA is found inside the nucleus of a cell. So, transcription takes place in the nucleus.

Translation

Once the mRNA is made, it’s able to smuggle the genetic code for making a new protein out of the nucleus and head to a ribosome. The ribosome is where the second step of protein synthesis, called translation, takes place. When you translate something, like a foreign language into English, you change the unclear words into words that makes sense to you. This clarification is what happens inside the ribosome: the secret code from the mRNA is changed, or translated, into the language of protein.The genetic code on the mRNA is laid out as a specific order of units called nucleotides.

A sequence of three nucleotides on an mRNA strand is called a codon. When a protein is ready to be assembled, amino acids are brought to the ribosome. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids are carried to the ribosome by transfer RNA, or tRNA for short.

Molecules of tRNA have their own sequence of three nucleotides, called an anticodon. The tRNA matches its anticodon with the proper codon on the mRNA. When a match is found, the tRNA places its amino acid on the mRNA, and the new protein gets built one amino acid at a time.

Lesson Summary

Protein synthesis is a term that means making protein. mRNA is made during the first step of protein synthesis, which is transcription.

The mRNA is decoded by a ribosome in the second step of protein synthesis, which is translation.

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