Because the nucleus houses an organism’s genetic code, which determines the amino acid sequence of proteins critical for day-to-day function, it primarily serves as the information centre of the cell. Information in DNA is transcribed, or copied, into a range of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) molecules, each of which encodes the information for one protein (in some instances more than one protein, such as in bacteria). The mRNA molecules are then transported through the nuclear envelope into the cytoplasm, where they are translated, serving as templates for the synthesis of specific proteins. For more information on these processes, see transcription; translation.
A cell normally contains only one nucleus. Under some conditions, however, the nucleus divides but the cytoplasm does not. This produces a multinucleate cell (syncytium) such as occurs in skeletal muscle fibres. Some cells—e.g., the human red blood cell—lose their nuclei upon maturation. See also cell.