Schimmel, Paul Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California.
Ewalt, Karla L. The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California.
Last reviewed:June 2019
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- Universal genetic code
- Decoding mRNAs with tRNAs
- Codon–anticodon interaction
- Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases
- Second genetic code
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The rules by which the base sequences of DNA are translated into the amino acid sequences of proteins. The genetic code is essential for translating the information encoded within genetic material into proteins. Each sequence of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that codes for a protein is transcribed or copied (Fig. 1) into messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA). Following the rules of the genetic code, discrete elements in the mRNA, known as codons, specify each of the 20 different amino acids that are the constituents of proteins. In a process called translation, the cell decodes the message in mRNA. During translation (Fig. 2), another class of RNAs, called transfer RNAs (tRNAs), are coupled to amino acids, bind to the mRNA, and in a step-by-step fashion provide the amino acids that are linked together in the order indicated by the mRNA sequence. The specific attachment of each amino acid to the appropriate tRNA and the precise pairing of tRNAs via their anticodons to the correct codons in the mRNA form the basis of the genetic code. See also: Amino acid; Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA); Gene; Genetics; Nucleic acid; Protein; Ribonucleic acid (RNA)
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