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Nucleic acid structures found on the 5' end of eukaryotic cellular and viral messenger RNA and some heterogeneous nuclear RNAs. These structures, which are positively charged, protect the above specified RNAs at their termini against attack by phosphatases and other nucleases and promote mRNA function at the level of initiation of translation. Analogs of the RNA caps (Rna cap analogs), which lack the positive charge, inhibit the initiation of protein synthesis.
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