14: Genes and Proteins
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Since the rediscovery of Mendel’s work in 1900, the definition of the gene has progressed from an abstract unit of heredity to a tangible molecular entity capable of replication, expression, and mutation. Genes are composed of DNA and are linearly arranged on chromosomes. Genes specify the sequences of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. In turn, proteins are responsible for orchestrating nearly every function of the cell. Both genes and the proteins they encode are absolutely essential to life as we know it.
- 14.1: Introduction to Genes and Proteins
- Since the rediscovery of Mendel’s work in 1900, the definition of the gene has progressed from an abstract unit of heredity to a tangible molecular entity capable of replication, expression, and mutation. Genes are composed of DNA and are linearly arranged on chromosomes. Genes specify the sequences of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. In turn, proteins are responsible for orchestrating nearly every function of the cell. Both genes and the proteins they encode are absolutel
- 14.2: The Genetic Code
- The cellular process of transcription generates messenger RNA (mRNA), a mobile molecular copy of one or more genes with an alphabet of A, C, G, and uracil (U). Translation of the mRNA template converts nucleotide-based genetic information into a protein product. Protein sequences consist of 20 commonly occurring amino acids; therefore, it can be said that the protein alphabet consists of 20 letters. Each amino acid is defined by a three-nucleotide sequence called the triplet codon.
- 14.3: Prokaryotic Transcription
- The prokaryotes, which include bacteria and archaea, are mostly single-celled organisms that, by definition, lack membrane-bound nuclei and other organelles. A bacterial chromosome is a covalently closed circle that, unlike eukaryotic chromosomes, is not organized around histone proteins. The central region of the cell in which prokaryotic DNA resides is called the nucleoid. Prokaryotes often have abundant plasmids that are shorter circular DNA molecules that may only contain one or a few genes.
- 14.4: Eukaryotic Transcription
- Prokaryotes and eukaryotes perform fundamentally the same process of transcription, with a few key differences. The most important difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes is the latter’s membrane-bound nucleus and organelles. With the genes bound in a nucleus, the eukaryotic cell must be able to transport its mRNA to the cytoplasm and must protect its mRNA from degrading before it is translated.
- 14.5: RNA Processing in Eukaryotes
- After transcription, eukaryotic pre-mRNAs must undergo several processing steps before they can be translated. Eukaryotic (and prokaryotic) tRNAs and rRNAs also undergo processing before they can function as components in the protein synthesis machinery.
- 14.6: Ribosomes and Protein Synthesis
- The synthesis of proteins consumes more of a cell’s energy than any other metabolic process. In turn, proteins account for more mass than any other component of living organisms (other than water), and proteins perform virtually every function of a cell. The process of translation, or protein synthesis, involves the decoding of an mRNA message into a polypeptide product. Amino acids are covalently bonded by interlinking peptide bonds in lengths ranging from ~50 amino acid residues to >1,000.
Thumbnail Image Credit: "DNA Helix String" by qimono, Pixabay is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Contributors and Attributions
Connie Rye (East Mississippi Community College), Robert Wise (University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh), Vladimir Jurukovski (Suffolk County Community College), Jean DeSaix (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Jung Choi (Georgia Institute of Technology), Yael Avissar (Rhode Island College) among other contributing authors. Original content by OpenStax (CC BY 4.0; Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/185cbf87-c72...firstname.lastname@example.org).