Study Guide

Gene to Protein

Gene to Protein Introduction

Until this point, we have talked a lot about DNA. Don't get us wrong. DNA is some pretty important stuff. We would even say it has rock star status. Seriously. Watch CSI or Bones. DNA all over the place.

DNA is a rock star because it provides all the information that a cell or organism needs to live and thrive. It can be also used to identify serial killers, mass murderers, or even your daddy (The Maury Povich Show—"You are the father!")

But, what about the other biological molecules, like RNA? Or protein? Don't they deserve a little attention?

They sure do. Without RNA and proteins, DNA is a long code of information, or a book in an unknown language. In other words, a lone DNA is about as good to you as the original untranslated Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient Sumerian poem. Only through translation of the DNA message into RNA and protein does the information in DNA become actually useful. RNA and proteins take the script (DNA) and bring it to life. Take that, DNA.

In fact, it is the expression pattern of genes from DNA, not the DNA itself, which distinguishes one cell type from another. The DNA in a skin cell and a cell in your stomach will be exactly the same. The RNA and proteins produced from that DNA message will be what differs between the two cells, making each cell have its own identity. Sounds important? It is.

Perhaps even more importantly, the levels of RNA and protein produced can change even within the same cell over time. These changes can occur in response to changes in the environment or during diseases such as cancer.

The time has come for us to bring RNA and proteins into the spotlight. We will talk about how these underdogs are created and how altering the amounts of these biological molecules are essential for survival. Heavy stuff.

Presenting Transcription:

The process by which the information in DNA is used to produce RNA. The RNA produced from transcription can then be decoded to create a sequence of amino acids.

And now…Translation:

The process of using an RNA template to create a polypeptide or protein made of amino acids.

These processes might seem complicated and confusing, but the basic principles aren't hard. In fact, we have some good news. Remember your friends, DNA polymerases and the base-pairing rules from DNA replication? They'll visit you again here. In fact, you can probably figure out how transcription works by understanding the basics of DNA replication. We'll also show you that deciphering translation isn't bad either if you know the right code. Don't worry; it is much easier than being a code-breaker at NSA, but just as cool.

This stuff will be a blast. We can feel your excitement through the screen. After all, the only thing better than learning about gene expression is knowing you are about to ace your exam on gene expression.

Gene to Protein Resources

Articles

Regulation through RNA localization
Learn everything you ever wanted to know about ISH and DIG.

Regulation through RNA localization
What could be better than fluorescent mRNA? Actually, we could think of a number of things, but this article is still an interesting read.

What You Eat Affects Your Genes
Scientists are bringing new meaning to the phrase "you are what you eat" after discovering that microRNAs from food could be making their ways into our bloodstreams.

More information about X inactivation and dosage compensation
Geneticist Eric Vilain (coolest last name ever) discusses the biology of sex development.

Cloning Fact Sheet
This article from the Human Genome Project covers topics ranging from what cloning is all about to whether humans should ever be cloned.

Fluorescent kittens
Glow-in-the-dark cats could help scientists treat both feline and human AIDS.

Gene Therapy Fact Sheet
Learn how gene therapy works and why it isn't more widely used.

Andrew Fire Nobel Lecture
Check out Fire's lecture on gene silencing by double stranded RNA.

Fire and Mello Interview
An interview with Nobel Laureates Andrew Fire and Craig Mello.

Potent and specific genetic interference by double-stranded RNA in Caenorhabditis elegans
Sounds like quite the party, right? Caenorhabditis elegans be crazy.

Videos

The Life of Eukaryotic mRNA
Listen to Roy Parker, a professor at the University of Arizona, tell you about the life of eukaryotic mRNA—all while using top-of-the-line green screen technology.

Information about cloning
Biochemist Walter Gilbert discusses his attempts to clone insulin.

Portrait of the 2006 Nobel Laureates in Medicine
If you've ever wondered what the life of a Nobel Laureate is like, have we got the video for you.

A Computer-Generated Look at Transcription and Translation
A clip of transcription and translation from the PBS documentary, DNA: The Secret of Life.

Translation
This video describes the process of adding amino acids to a polypeptide chain.

Class at UC Berkeley
A Biology 1A lecture on transcription.

Transcription and Translation Fun
It's a song about cellular construction. You can't beat that.

Websites

Genetically engineered pets
Allergic to kittens but desperately want to become a crazy cat lady (or gentleman)? Allerca's genetically modified hypoallergenic pets are the answer.

Turner Syndrome Society
The Turner Syndrome Society website.

AAKSIS
The American Association for Klinefelter Syndrome Information and Support website.

Dictionaries

University of Alberta Dictionary
A Latin and Greek roots index from the University of Alberta.

Online Etymology Dictionary
This dictionary has a stellar search function.

CSU Northridge Roots Sheet
A handy-dandy sheet of common chemistry roots.