Biology as Poetry: Genetics

Bacteriophage Ecology Group

Reading Frame

The codons making up a single gene.

Reading frames being with a start codon, proceed through a number – often a larger number – of sense codons, and then end with one or more stop codons. Except when interrupted by introns, the codons in a reading frame proceed in order without either interruption or punctuation.

A reading frame starts at a single nucleodtide, that is, the first nucleotide of the start codon, and then proceeds forward from the start codon in nucleotide intervals of three, that is, as a series of codons. This orderly progression of codons can be disrupted with nucleotide insertions or deletions, resulting in frameshift mutations.

In association with the base sequence of a double helix, up to six reading frames are possible, three in one direction and three in the other. Usually, though, only one of those reading frames constitutes a gene. Much more rarely, however, the reading frames of two genes can overlap.

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