Question

What does it mean when the genetic code is described as degenerate?

1 year ago

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6 Replies

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Isabelle Blick


6 Replies

Sadaf M Profile Picture

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Multiple triplet (1 codon) codes for the same amino acid.

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Megan F Profile Picture

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Hi,


In short, degenerate in terms of genetic means that multiple combinations of different codons (groups of 3 bases) can code for the same amino acid. This is useful as it means that more than one codon can make an amino acid which are needed to fulfil the body's large demand for proteins for maintenance and repair of tissues.


The reason why this is important is because when we consider mutations, if a change in a singular base always resulted in a change in amino acid, this could cause damage in the long term. Hence, by the genetic code being degenerate, it means that a change in base may result in a new codon which still codes for the same amino acid as the original codon did, so no changes would occur.

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Sarah Cooke

The short answer is there are multiple combinations of codons that form the same amino acid!

A little more detail: A codon is a set of 3 nucleotides, also known as a triplet. The different combinations of of nucleotides (A,U,G,C) are translated into different amino acids. For example, the codon CUG is translated into the amino acid leucine. However, there are many more possible triplet combinations than there are amino acids, and therefore there are a number of different codons that translate into the same amino acid. For example, CUU, CUC and CUA also all result in leucine. This is the meaning when someone says that the genetic code is degenerate.


Bonus! Not all codons = an amino acid. For example, UAA = a stop codon, signalling the end of a polypeptide chain.

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Salman Javaid

It means that there's several different combinations of triplets (sequence of 3 bases) that can code for the same amino acid so mutations such as substitutions may not always result in a change to the amino acid being coded for :)

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Hasan Shahzad

Means that one codon (sequence of 3 bases) can code for more than one amino acid. For example, TCT, TCC, TCA, TCG AGT, AGC all code for serine. Hope this helps!

Tara S Profile Picture

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Degenerate means multiple triplet codes code for the same amino acid.

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