The Genetic Code—More Than Just a Table

Abstract

The standard codon table is a primary tool for basic understanding of molecular biology. In the minds of many, the table’s orderly arrangement of bases and amino acids is synonymous with the true genetic code, i.e., the biological coding principle itself. However, developments in the field reveal a much more complex and interesting picture. In this article, we review the traditional codon table and its limitations in light of the true complexity of the genetic code. We suggest the codon table be brought up to date and, as a step, we present a novel superposition of the BLOSUM62 matrix and an allowed point mutation matrix. This superposition depicts an important aspect of the true genetic code—its ability to tolerate mutations and mistranslations.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Thomas Wilhelm (Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK) and Swetlana Nikolajewa (Hans-Knoell-Institute, Jena, Germany) for a critical reading of this article. This does not imply full agreement with the contents.

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Correspondence to D. Berleant or J. C. Macosko.

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Berleant, D., White, M., Pierce, E. et al. The Genetic Code—More Than Just a Table. Cell Biochem Biophys 55, 107–116 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12013-009-9060-9

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Keywords

  • Genetic code
  • Codon table
  • Biological pedagogy
  • Code optimization
  • Point mutation
  • BLOSUM62
  • PAM250