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What do ribosomes do?

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Quick Answer

Ribosomes are microscopic structures within living cells that convert genetic code into an amino acid sequence. They are also responsible for converting amino acid monomers into more complex structures called polymers. Ribosomes function primarily in the cell's cytoplasm.

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Full Answer

Ribosomes are composed of a large subunit and a small subunit. When these two subunits combine, they form a complete ribosome that is capable of converting genetic code found in RNA into a sequence of amino acids. The ending result is a protein structure.

Under a microscope, ribosomes appear to be tiny bead-like structures. These are present in all living cells, including prokaryotes and eukaryotes. These can function in two ways. First, ribosomes can float freely within the cell's cytoplasm. Otherwise, ribosomes can also be attached to a cell structure that is known as the endoplasmic reticulum.

As the cell's protein factories, ribosomes locate and combine disparate amino acids using peptide bonds in order to create more complex polypeptide structures (proteins). Once an RNA sequence enters a ribosome, it programs that ribosome with instructions for producing a specific protein. That ribosome can then absorb amino acids and combine them in the specific order necessary to convert disparate amino acids into a complex chain of amino acids called proteins.

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