AQA A Level Biology

Revision Notes

4.2.3 Transcription

Transcription

  • A gene is a sequence of nucleotide bases in a DNA molecule that codes for the production of a specific sequence of amino acids, that in turn make up a specific polypeptide (protein)
  • This process of protein synthesis occurs in two stages:
    • TranscriptionDNA is transcribed and an mRNA molecule is produced
    • TranslationmRNA (messenger RNA) is translated and an amino acid sequence is produced

Transcription

  • This stage of protein synthesis occurs in the nucleus of the cell
  • Part of a DNA molecule unwinds (the hydrogen bonds between the complementary base pairs break)
  • This exposes the gene to be transcribed (the gene from which a particular polypeptide will be produced)
  • A complimentary copy of the code from the gene is made by building a single-stranded nucleic acid molecule known as mRNA (messenger RNA)
  • Free activated RNA nucleotides pair up (via hydrogen bonds) with their complementary (now exposed) bases on one strand (the template strand) of the ‘unzipped’ DNA molecule
  • The sugar-phosphate groups of these RNA nucleotides are then bonded together by the enzyme RNA polymerase to form the sugar-phosphate backbone of the mRNA molecule
  • When the gene has been transcribed (when the mRNA molecule is complete), the hydrogen bonds between the mRNA and DNA strands break and the double-stranded DNA molecule re-forms
  • The mRNA molecule then leaves the nucleus via a pore in the nuclear envelope

Transcription in the nucleus, downloadable AS & A Level Biology revision notes

The transcription stage of protein synthesis – DNA is transcribed and an mRNA molecule is produced

Template and non-template strands

  • In the transcription stage of protein synthesis, the section of the DNA molecule where the gene is located (the gene coding for a particular polypeptide) unwinds – the hydrogen bonds between the complementary base pairs break, causing the two DNA strands to ‘unzip’
  • Free activated RNA nucleotides then pair up with the exposed bases on the DNA molecule but only with those bases on one strand of the DNA molecule
  • This strand of the DNA molecule is called the template strand or the transcribed strand
  • This is the strand that is transcribed to form the mRNA molecule (RNA polymerase binds the RNA nucleotides together to create the sugar-phosphate backbone of the mRNA molecule)
    • This mRNA molecule will then be translated into an amino acid chain
  • The strand of the DNA molecule that is not transcribed is called the non-template strand or the non-transcribed strand

Transcription of the template strand, downloadable AS & A Level Biology revision notes

The template strand of the DNA molecule is the one that is transcribed

Exam Tip

Be careful – DNA polymerase is the enzyme involved in DNA replication; RNA polymerase is the enzyme involved in transcription – don’t get these confused.

Note the use of sense and anti-sense strands in transcription has been replaced with non-transcribed and transcribed (or template) strands respectively.

The mRNA codons have the same base sequence as the non-transcribed strand, and the tRNA anticodons have the same base sequence as the transcribed strand except RNA, which has the base Uracil, replacing Thymine.

Author: Lára

Lára graduated from Oxford University in Biological Sciences and has now been a science tutor working in the UK for several years. Lára has a particular interest in the area of infectious disease and epidemiology, and enjoys creating original educational materials that develop confidence and facilitate learning.
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