Difference Between Transcription and Translation

The human body is made of the complex structure of DNA that contains many cells, where each cell has one defined function to perform. Cells must function properly as it directly affects the immunity and other organs of the body.


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Many underlying processes happen in the human body which supports cell functioning. Transcription and Translation are two such essential processes that are involved in the gene expression process.

Key Takeaways

  1. Transcription is the process of copying DNA into RNA, which occurs in the nucleus of a cell.
  2. The translation is the process of converting RNA into protein, which occurs in the ribosomes of a cell.
  3. Transcription and translation are essential processes in gene expression and the synthesis of proteins in cells.

Transcription vs Translation

The difference between transcription and translation is that transcription involves the creation of mRNA from DNA, whereas translation does protein synthesis by using the mRNA strands. In molecular biology, DNA decoding into mRNA is done by transcription, and the development of proteins by RNA is done by translation, which is defined as the critical and central dogma.

Transcription vs Translation

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The first step in gene expression is transcription, where the enzyme RNA polymerase copies the genes from a particular segment of the DNA into mRNA (messenger RNA).

DNA bases get bound to the appropriate nucleosides after the DNS helix unwinds and then connect to the matching RNA segment of the DNA strand to make a complementary RNA, i.e. mRNA.

The translation is the second step and happens after transcription, where mRNA is converted further into the required proteins. In this, mRNA gets attached to ribosomes and further decoded to specific amino acids that form polypeptides by connecting each other, and then makes the protein.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonTranscriptionTranslation
DefinitionTranscription is the process of synthesizing mRNA from DNA.The translation is the process of synthesizing proteins from mRNA.
Happen InIt occurs inside the cytoplasm in prokaryotes and the nucleus in eukaryotes.It occurs in the cytoplasm.
UsesIt requires RNA polymerase.Use different reagents to create a polypeptide chain.
Starting PointIt starts when RNA polymerase protein binds in DNA to the promoter, which then forms a transcription initiation complex. Here, the promoter tells the location in the DNA strand from where the initiation of the transcription will start.Start as soon as the ribosome subunits, initiation factors, and mRNA are bounded by t-RNA, where the AUG starts codon.
End ProductmRNA, rRNA, tRNA, and non-coding RNA.Proteins


What is Transcription?

Transcription is the process of creating a complementary RNA strand using DNA as a template. In simple words, it is the first step in gene expression, where specific genes are copied from DNA to make RNA.

It is the first stage where protein production gets started. DNA is a complex structure where genetic information of the individual or living organism is stored, which is used or transferred to RNA through transcription.

In the transcription process, three types of RNA are formed, i.e. mRNA (messenger RNA), tRNA (transfer RNA) and rRNA (ribosomal RNA).

Pre-initiation, initiation, elongation, and termination are the four stages that occur in transcription.

  1. Pre-initiation: In this step, DNA is denatured, i.e. RNA polymerase gets bind with the promoter area of the DNA. Here promoter identifies the area from where DNA will be copied.
  2. Initiation: Insertion of complementary ribonucleosides happens, which are then joined together by phosphodiester bonds.
  3. Elongation: Separation of RNA strand from the DNA template starts here.
  4. Termination: Before RNA gets disassociated from the DNA, RNA gets the signal from the termination sequence to start forming the secondary structure, just like a hairpin.

What is Translation?

The translation is the next step in gene expression, where the output of the transcription process, i.e. mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid), is synthesized to make proteins.

Each strand of mRNA stores specific chemical information that is used by this process to produce the chain of amino acids also called a polypeptide chain.

It is important to note that different genes are coded in each strand of mRNA that forms a different protein.

Initiation, elongation, and termination are the three main stages of the Translation Process. The ribosome is essential in this process as its subunits are used to make proteins.

  1. Initiation: Ribosomal units, small as well as large, and tRNA get attached to mRNA.
  2. Elongation: Amino acids of the tRNA molecules bind and attach to mRNA. Here two charged tRNA molecules are used that get attached to mRNA.
  3. Termination: From tRNA, the last amino acids in the polypeptide chain are released by GTP-dependent release factors. Post this, tRNA gets released.

Main Differences Between Transcription and Translation

Transcription and Translation both play an equal role and are essential in the flow of genetic information process within the cell, i.e. from the gene in DNA to mRNA and then mRNA to proteins.

Both processes are vital for each other as one can’t occur without the other.

But, there exists an essential difference between transcription and translation, such as

  1. Transcription is the formation of RNA from DNA, whereas translation is the synthesizing of RNA to make proteins, i.e. polypeptide over ribosome.
  2. In transcription, the antisense strand of the DNA is used as a template, whereas in translation, mRNA acts as a template.
  3. Transcription happens inside the cytoplasm in prokaryotes and nuclei in eukaryotes, whereas translation happens in the cytoplasm.
  4. In Transcription, ATP, GTP. CTP and UTP, i.e. four types of ribonucleoside triphosphates, are used as raw materials, whereas in translation, 20 different types of amino acids are used as raw materials.
  5. In Transcription, rRNA, tRNA, and mRNA are formed, and all these forms of RNA are used in the process of translation.
  6. In Transcription, slicing is involved. Whereas in translation, slicing is absent.
  7. In Transcription, RNA polymerases are required; in translation, different reagents are used to create a polypeptide chain.
  8. In Transcription, in the template, Polymerase moves over, whereas, in translation, Ribosome moves over the mRNA.
Difference Between Transcription and Translation
  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrc1753
  2. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/293/5532/1139.short
  3. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1970-20350-001
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5 thoughts on “Difference Between Transcription and Translation”

  1. Avatar of Oliver Bendas
    Oliver Bendas

    So if I have to conclude it again from my side, the mRNA is the stuff that does bulk of work of copying the DNA?

  2. Avatar of Cecily Trivino
    Cecily Trivino

    So if I also try to summarize this difference then it is the mRNA that does all the crucial work in transcription and translation processes.

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