The 5'-ends of all eukaryotic pre-mRNAs studied thus far are converted to cap structures. The cap is thought to influence splicing of the first intron, and is bound by 'cap-binding' proteins, CBP80 and CBP20, in the nucleus. The cap is important for translation initiation, and it also interacts with the poly(A)terminus, via proteins, resulting in circularization of the mRNA to facilitate multiple rounds of translation. The cap is also important for mRNA stability, protecting it from 5' to 3' nucleases, and is required for mRNA export to the cytoplasm.
The capping reaction usually occurs very rapidly on nascent transcripts; after the synthesis of only a few nucleotides by RNA polymerase II. The capping reaction involves the conversion of the 5'-end of the nascent transcript from a triphosphate to a diphosphate by a RNA 5'-triphosphatase, followed by the addition of a guanosine monophosphate by the mRNA guanylyltransferase, to form a 5'-5'-triphosphate linkage. This cap is then methylated by 2'-O-methyltransferases.