Once upon a time, a straggly, nomadic band of brothers journeyed together through vast, foreign lands. They were called the tRNA. One day, the land began to change, slowly but surely. The tRNA were laid-back and happy. They did not notice that the land had changed. Suddenly, they realized that they had entered a deep, dark, and thick jungle.
The jungle swallowed the band of brothers whole. Sunlight did not reach the ground. Strange creatures flitted through the forest. One tRNA got lost and separated from the others. This tRNA wandered alone through the forest, trying to find his band.
This tRNA in particular was a very smart boy. This tRNA’s name was “ACU”. Yes, spelt in capital letters and pronounced “AKU”. Just like that. ACU noticed that the same creatures passed through the jungle everyday. Some creatures looked just like him. They had the same funny protuberances and same jangly atoms. Even so, ACU would always run and hide at the approach of these strange creatures.
Sometimes, long caterpillar-like creatures would pass. They almost looked like long chains of tRNA. ACU would stare at these funny, jangly, protubering, slobbering, slippering creatures. This jungle made no sense.
ACU decided to give the caterpillars a name. Because the slobbering, slippering caterpillars looking just like tRNA, ACU decided to call them “my RNA” or “mRNA”. Maybe mRNA were cousins of the tRNA? ACU wanted to find out so badly but was too scared. ACU was smart but all the smartness in the world could not stop him from being a scaredy-poo. These mRNA caterpillars looked big and scary and full of scary-looking spiky things that looked painful.
One day ACU came to a clearing in the forest. ACU happened to look up and got the shock of his life! From the clearing, he could see the clouds clearly for the first time. But they were not clouds! They were creatures too! And they were huge and had huge shadows. ACU ran into the jungle and did not stop till he could not see the flippity, floppity cloud creatures! ACU decided to call these huge, flippity, floppity clouds “Ribosomes”. No, not rhinoceroses because they didn’t have horns. R-I-B-O-S-O-M-E-S. Just like that.
One day, ACU was very tired, very hungry, very thirsty, and very lonely. He wanted to meet his tRNA brothers! Tired and exhausted, he sat down under a banyan tree in the many roots. The tree felt like a home. It was cool under the tree. A stream ran through the hanging roots of the banyan tree. ACU drank from the stream and soon fell asleep.
ACU had the funniest dream. He dreamt that if only he could reach the ribosomes somehow, he would find his tRNA brothers again! In his dream, he was chased by crazy creatures called “amino acids” who got angry if he didn’t find the ribosomes! These amino acids were in a huge hurry. They were crazy!
Suddenly, ACU woke up with a start and saw a cluster of amino acids in front of him! ACU began to tremble.
“Why are you under a banyan tree?”, they said, glaring at him.
ACU stuttered and stammered and hemmed and hawed.
“To the ribosome!”, they said, stamping their feet impatiently.
“H-h-how … ?” wept ACU.
“It’s the only way to get your brothers back!”, shouted the amino acids. “You must climb to the top of this banyan tree and let the air currents take you to the ribosome.”
ACU was dreadfully afraid of heights, let alone climbing a banyan tree. But he was afraid of these nasty amino acids too. Uffff. Pffft. Pshaw. He straightened up, dusted himself off, cracked his joints, untousled his hair, slapped himself once or twice, did a few jumping jacks, took a very deep breath, and climbed up the banyan tree.
It wasn’t so bad! ACU saw many birds and insects and butterflies and even a monkey! As he got higher, he got a nice view of the jungle. This banyan tree was very high indeed! He saw the ribosome-cloud getting closer and closer. He could almost reach it now!
What was that?! On the ribosome? Was that his tRNA brothers hanging off the ribosome? Oh yes, it was. The amino acids were right. All his tRNA brothers were at the ribosome. Now only if the right air current could catch him. He was so close.
ACU closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped off the banyan tree! Straight into the hands of a waiting air current that took him straight to the ribosome and his tRNA brothers. He was rejoined and so happy. The amino acids were here too! They didn’t look so scary high up in the sky. Together they formed one long, happy chain that stretched till the horizon. The chain was a protein. No, not a rhinoceros. P-R-O-T-E-I-N. Just like that. ACU was back with his friends and brothers and he was happy.