Imagining transcription in the cell, Sydney Brenner

Interviewee: Sydney Brenner. Sydney Brenner describes what messenger RNA production would look like. (DNAi Location: Code > Copying the code > Players > Sydney Brenner > The snake pit)

Be like snakes. You see, let me tell you what it is. If you look at a bacterium and you say you've got these ribosomes and then you see these pictures in the books of messenger RNA and the ribosomes running on messenger RNA, those are all wrong, those pictures are wrong. If you see these books you see a little DNA circle drawn in a bacterium, that's also wrong. The DNA is folded one thousand times. The length of DNA in a bacterium is about a millimeter, the bacterium is one micrometer, one micron long. So the DNA is rolled up and folded many, many times inside this. And of course when the messenger comes out, comes off the DNA, what you have to imagine is it threading itself through these almost stationary ribosomes, because they're big and they don't diffuse like a bunch of snakes. So if you really wanted to imagine the reality, it would be these snake-like molecules, writhing their way through this lattice of ribosomes in a bacterium.

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