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What Is Messenger RNA?

The flow of genetic information is an essential process in biology that involves the transfer of genetic material from DNA to RNA to proteins. At the heart of this process is a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA). 

Without mRNA, cells would not be able to create the proteins necessary for various cellular processes, and genetic information would not be able to flow from the nucleus to the cytoplasm.

This article discusses what mRNA is and its role in molecular biology. 

Defining Messenger RNA

Messenger RNA is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecule that plays a central role in the flow of genetic information in cells. mRNA molecules are transcribed from DNA in the cell nucleus and carry the genetic information encoded in the DNA to the ribosomes, the cellular organelles responsible for protein synthesis.

The mRNA molecule is a single-stranded RNA molecule complementary to the DNA sequence from which it was transcribed. The sequence of the mRNA molecule is determined by the order of nucleotides in the DNA template strand, with each three nucleotides, called a codon, corresponding to a specific amino acid. The sequence of amino acids, in turn, determines the sequence of the protein that will be synthesised.

mRNA synthesis is initiated by binding an enzyme called RNA polymerase to a specific region of the DNA called the promoter. The RNA polymerase then unwinds the double helix structure of the DNA and begins transcribing the DNA sequence into a complementary mRNA molecule. As the mRNA molecule is synthesised, it is processed to remove non-coding regions called introns and join the coding regions, called exons, to create a mature mRNA molecule.

The mature mRNA molecule is then exported from the nucleus and travels to the cytoplasm, where it binds to ribosomes. The ribosome reads the sequence of nucleotides on the mRNA molecule in groups of three, each corresponding to a specific amino acid. As the ribosome moves along the mRNA molecule, it synthesises a protein by joining its amino acids in the order specified by the mRNA sequence.

mRNA in Therapeutic Intervention

Messenger RNA has become an essential tool in therapeutic intervention due to its ability to control protein expression and serve as a template for the production of specific proteins. mRNA-based therapies offer several advantages over traditional protein-based therapies and small molecule drugs.

First, mRNA-based therapies are highly specific, encoding the exact protein of interest. This specificity allows for targeted therapies that selectively block a disease-causing protein’s activity or replace a missing or defective protein.

Second, mRNA molecules are rapidly degraded in cells, allowing for precise control over the protein expression level. This feature makes mRNA-based therapies more flexible and adaptable than traditional protein-based therapies, where the protein dosage can be challenging to regulate.

Finally, mRNA molecules can be modified chemically to improve their stability, increase their efficiency, and target them to specific cells or tissues. These modifications allow for greater control over the delivery and distribution of the mRNA molecule and its encoded protein.

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