Edexcel A (SNAB) A Level Biology:复习笔记2.3.1 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:
    • Transcription – DNA is transcribed and an mRNA (messenger RNA) molecule is produced
    • Translation – mRNA is translated and an amino acid sequence is produced
      • mRNA is a single-stranded molecule made up of many RNA nucleotides joined together
      • The role of mRNA is to carry the information encoded in the DNA from the nucleus to the site of translation on ribosomes
      • RNA is similar to DNA except for the following
        • RNA contains a ribose sugar while DNA contains deoxyribose
        • RNA is usually single-stranded while DNA is double-stranded
        • RNA contains the base uracil instead of the DNA base thymine


  • This stage of protein synthesis occurs in the nucleus of the cell
  • Part of a DNA molecule unwinds and 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
    • This reaction is catalysed by RNA polymerase
  • Free activated RNA nucleotides pair up, via hydrogen bonds, with their complementary bases on the exposed strand of the ‘unzipped’ DNA molecule
  • The sugar-phosphate groups of these RNA nucleotides are then bonded together in a reaction catalysed by the enzyme RNA polymerase to form the sugar-phosphate backbone of the mRNA molecule
  • When the gene has been transcribed and the mRNA molecule is complete, the hydrogen bonds between the mRNA and DNA strands break and the double-stranded DNA molecule reforms
  • The mRNA molecule then leaves the nucleus via a pore in the nuclear envelope

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

Anti-sense and sense strands

  • In the transcription stage of protein synthesis, free RNA nucleotides pair up with the exposed bases on the DNA molecule
  • RNA nucleotides only pair with the bases on one strand of the DNA molecule
    • This strand of the DNA molecule is known as the antisense or template strand (or the transcribed strand) and it is used to produce the mRNA molecule
    • The other strand is known as the sense or coding strand (or the non-template or non-transcribed strand)
  • RNA polymerase moves along the template strand in the 3' to 5' direction
    • This means that the mRNA molecule grows in the 5' to 3' direction
  • Because the mRNA is formed by complementary pairing with the DNA template strand, the mRNA molecule contains the exact same sequence of nucleotides as the DNA coding strand (although the mRNA will contain uracil instead of thymine)

The antisense strand of DNA is the one that is transcribed into mRNA

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 can be replaced with non-transcribed and transcribed/template strands respectively.

The mRNA strand will have the same base sequence as the sense strand except on RNA the base Uracil replaces Thymine from the DNA strand.