Protein synthesis is a process that every single one of your cells knows how to do (except your red blood cells). You have all different types of cells in your body and the proteins they make all have different jobs. If only it were so easy that one protein had one job. Nope. Some proteins have many jobs. Some proteins have redundant jobs. Some proteins, when broken or missing, cause catastrophic damage to the body. Despite the varied results of this crucial cellular process, the basic components are the same.
Protein synthesis always starts with directions in the form of DNA. These instructions describe the amino acids that must be used to build a protein and the order they must go in. But since DNA can’t leave the nucleus and there’s no reason to copy an entire strand of DNA just for the instructions on one gene, RNA is used to take the information out into the cytoplasm. Hence, why we call it messenger RNA or mRNA. This process of copying a section of DNA into RNA is known as transcription.
Once in the cytoplasm, the RNA is neatly snatched up by a ribosome. You can think of ribosomes like translators – they translate nucleic acid messages into amino acids. So, it’s not surprising that ribosomes are made up of… *drum roll* nucleic acids and amino acids! Once the ribosome has a good grip on the RNA, it calls in a transfer RNA or tRNA to bring in the corresponding amino acid.
Once the tRNA deposits the correct amino acid into the ribosome, our hardworking translator moves down to the next sentence of the RNA and calls in a different tRNA carrying a different amino acid. If a protein is made of 50,000 amino acids, then the ribosome and tRNAs will go through this process 50,000 times. Whew! Not surprisingly, this second step in protein synthesis is called translation.
Protein synthesis can be turned off several ways by disrupting any of the above steps. One way is through microRNA. This little piece of RNA is a silencing RNA and while it doesn’t code for anything, it shuts down protein synthesis by breaking up or disrupting the mRNA that’s in the ribosome. Humans have caught onto this little trick and we’ve created shRNA, which is basically a type of man-made silencing RNA.
We’ve Got Protein Synthesis in Our Shop!
Want to own a piece of protein synthesis or give it as a gift to a fellow science lover? Head over to our store to pick out a piece of RNA, tRNA, microRNA, shRNA, DNA, or ribosome. Did we mention that these pieces also make great gifts for biochemists, molecular biologists, microbiologists, and starry-eyed pre-med students?
written by Science with Evie