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I confused myself during studying, and wanted to confirm something. Since transcription via RNA polymerases only takes place in the 5'to 3' direction, that would mean that that 5' to 3' strand is the only one that contains the information to be translated later into a protein or mRNA or w/e.

So then the 3' to 5' strand would NOT contain any genes, but just the base pair complement to them? Or am I thinking of the concept of a gene wrong?

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There is nothing called the 3' to 5' strand. Both strands are have the same polarity but the DNA helix is anti-parallel. Both the strands contain approximately equal number of genes. Sometimes the transcription from both the strands can overlap, leading to production of antisense-transcripts.

So RNA polymerase will read the other strand from its 3' to 5'.


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Both strands have a 5' and 3' end. Some genes will be on one strand and some on the other. The coding sequence will always be 5' to 3', but RNA polymerase reads the template 3' to 5' to polymerize mRNA.

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  • $\begingroup$ So then since RNA poly reads 3' to 5', both strands can be parent strands depending on whenever RNA poly stops? $\endgroup$ – Ro Siv Aug 26 '15 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ depends on the gene, the location of polII interacting elements and the location of specific transcription terminator sequences. There is usually just one parent strand per gene, but bidirectional transcription is known of ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2576438 $\endgroup$ – Ankur Chakravarthy Aug 27 '15 at 1:23

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