Difference between replication and transcription

Main difference

For an organism to grow, cell division is essential. But for cell division, the cell’s DNA must replicate so that daughter cells have the same genetic material as their parent cell. Transcription is a process in which the DNA sequence is enzymatically copied by RNA polymerase to produce RNA. Transcription is basically the transfer of genetic information from DNA to RNA. Both processes involve the formation of new nucleic acid molecules that can be DNA or RNA. However, both DNA and RNA have different roles, one involved in gene expression and the other in cell division.


Replication is a process involved in cell division that includes copying the DNA in a cell so that there are two sets of DNA, each set of DNA is available to the daughter cell. The replication process occurs in the S phase (synthesis phase) of the cell cycle. In replication, first the DNA unwinds and then the DNA helix splits into two and each strand acts as a template for the daughter cell DNA in which one strand of DNA forms a double-stranded DNA. But first that RNA primer is required to initiate replication. The replication process is catalyzed by DNA polymerase enzymes that recreate the complementary DNA sequence when the two DNA strands are separated. DNA replication involves copying the entire genome. The deoxyribose nucleotide triphosphate acts as a raw material that combines with the nucleotides of the single strand of DNA that serve as a template through the phosphodiester bond. Therefore, the new double-stranded DNA helix is ​​formed through the replication process. This process helps to conserve genetic information for the generation of cells and individuals. The remaining products of replication are not degraded and remain within the nucleus.


Transcription is a process that involves the copying of DNA into RNA. The part of the DNA that codes for the gene is copied into messenger RNA (mRNA) or transfer RNA (tRNA) or ribosomal RNA (rRNA). The transcription process occurs in the G1 and G2 phases of the cell cycle. In transcription, the first step is to untwist and separate the two strands of DNA. RNA polymerase an enzyme that then travels along the DNA strand and begins joining RNA nucleotides on the DNA strand, until a complete RNA strand is formed. The mRNA then enters the cytoplasm through the nuclear pore of the nucleus, where it is translated into proteins. Transcription takes place only in a DNA strand and allows copying only a certain number of genes. So a single strand of RNA is formed from a segment of DNA. No primer is required in transcription. The transcription process helps form DNA copies of genes that can be used in the immediate production of proteins. The remaining products of the transcription process are degraded when their function ends.

Key differences

  1. Replication is a process in which two DNAs are formed from a single DNA, while transcription is a process in which RNA is formed from DNA.
  2. Replication occurs in the S phase of the cell cycle while transcription occurs in the G1 and G2 phase of the cell cycle.
  3. DNA polymerase is used in replication, while RNA polymerase is used in transcription.
  4. In replication, two sets of DNA are formed from two strands of DNA, while in transcription, a single strand of RNA is formed from a single strand of DNA.
  5. Replication involves copying the entire genome, while transcription involves copying only certain genes.
  6. Replication helps preserve the genome for cell generation, while transcription forms copies of the DNA gene for immediate use in protein formation.

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