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GENETIC CODE The genetic code consists of 64 triplets of nucleotides called codons.

A codon is a sequence of 3 bases which specify an amino acid, a start or stop signal.

Characteristics of the genetic code include; Code word

Each codon is a sequence of 3 bases required to determine the incorporation of a single amino acid Colinearity

The order of bases is read in the 3 to 5 direction Degeneracy

Some amino acids have alternate codes or several codons may code for the same amino acids Start codon

It is usually AUG in all species but it also codes for methionine. The codon for methionine is a start signal however in prokaryotes the first methionine is methylated.

Stop signal

This is degenerated as it has 3 codons specifying the start signal; UAA, UAG, UGA. This determines the end of the protein once the start codon has been determined, its always the first stop codon encountered down stream. The region between the first methionine and the stop codon is the open reading frame. Universality

This code is the same in all species. In rare incidences this codon is not universal like in animal mitochondria use AUA for methionine not isoleucine, all vertebrate mitochondria use AGA and AGG as chain terminator and in animal and micro organisms mitochondrial UGA codes for Tryptophan while in plants it specifies stop. CODON BIAS All but two of the amino acids (Met and Trp) can be encoded by from 2 to 6 different codons. However, the genome of most organisms reveals that certain codons are preferred over others. In humans, for example, alanine is encoded by GCC four times as often as by GCG. This probably reflects great translation efficiency by the translation apparatus (e.g., ribosomes) for certain codons over their synonyms.