Coding strand

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When referring to DNA transcription (protein biosynthesis), the coding strand is the DNA strand which has the same base sequence as the RNA transcript produced (although with thymine replaced by uracil).

Alternative terms for strands

Wherever a gene exists on a DNA molecule, one strand is the coding strand (or sense strand), and the other is the template strand (or antisense strand, or anticoding strand). The coding strand is also sometimes referred to as the RNA-like strand, referring to its similarity to the transcribed RNA product.

Strands in transcription bubble

During transcription, RNA polymerase unwinds a short section of the DNA double helix near the start of the gene. This unwound section is known as the transcription bubble. The RNA polymerase, and therefore the transcription bubble, travels along the coding strand in the 5' to 3' direction, and along the template strand in the opposite, 3' to 5', direction. The DNA double helix is rewound by RNA polymerase at the rear of the transcription bubble (Lewin, pp 235).

RNA-DNA hybrid

Where the helix is unwound, the coding strand consists of unpaired bases, whilst the template strand consists of an RNA:DNA hybrid, followed by a number of unpaired bases at the rear. This hybrid consists of the most-recently-added nucleotides of the RNA transcript, complementary base-paired to the template strand. The number of base-pairs in the hybrid is under investigation, but it has been suggested that the hybrid is formed from the last 10 nucleotides added (Griffiths, pp 259-265).


  • Griffiths A.J.F. et al. (2005) Introduction to Genetic Analysis (8th edition). W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, USA. ISBN 0-7167-4939-4
  • Lewin B. (2000) Genes VII. Oxford University Press Inc., New York, USA. ISBN 0-19-879277-8 (Pbk), ISBN 0-19-879276-X (Hbk)

de:Codogener Strang