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Topics in Depth

The Theme of Common Mistakes in Gene to Protein

Transcription Common Mistakes

1. When thinking about transcription, think about a scribe making an exact copy of a document. During transcription the cell makes a copy of the DNA using the same language, or nucleic acids. In translation, the cell translates the RNA message into a totally new language using amino acids. In other words, think of transcription as making a duplicate copy in the same language, while translation 'translates' it into a new language. Another helpful hint: c comes before l in the alphabet and transcription happens before translation.

2. It is a little bit confusing to follow how the genetic code is translated into RNA. Don't lose track of your strands! The important thing to remember is that the template strand of DNA is the reverse complement of the sequence in the RNA. For example, if a particular base in the RNA is guanine, then the corresponding base in the template strand is a cytosine.

3. Sometimes introns and exons can be confusing, too. Exons sound like they should be excluded from the final RNA product, but it is the other way around. Exons stay in the RNA and introns don't.

Translation Common Mistakes

1. It can be tricky to keep all these different RNAs straight. Remember that the first letter of the RNA is often short for what process the RNA is involved in. The names even make some sense. The transfer RNA transfers an amino acid to the new peptide chain. The messenger RNA, acts as a messenger that brings the information encoded in the DNA. The ribosomal RNA acts as a part of the ribosome.

2. If you are given a sequence of a mRNA, remember that translation does not start at the beginning of the sequence. You need to start at the first Met codon. This first codon determines the reading frame from then on.

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