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During translation, the nucleotide sequences on mRNA are used to form a polypeptide chain.

Translation has three stages: initiation, elongation and termination. These names are also used in transcription for analogous phases.

Three types of RNA are involved in translation:

Type Function
mRNA Carries the instructions (coded in the base sequence) for the amino acid sequence.
tRNA Delivers the amino acids needed to build the protein.
rRNA Ribosomal RNA and proteins form the ribosome. Ribosomes catalyse the formation of peptide bonds between amino acids

tRNA is a relatively small nucleic acid. It is only 70-90 nucleotides long. Every tRNA molecule represents an amino acid using a region called the anti-codon. The anti-codon is complementary to the codon found on mRNA and is three bases out of the total 70 to 90 of the molecule.

The tRNA molecule carries the amino acid that the mRNA codon represents to the polypeptide chain. This amino acid is then added to the growing chain.