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What is a DNA mutation?
Humans have 46 chromosomes in every cell in their body (except their gametes, but we’ll discuss that another time). Whenever you get hurt or grow, your cells divide. They do so by first copying their DNA and then splitting into two new daughter cells. This process, known as DNA replication, can be tricky seeing as you have over 3 billion “letters” worth of DNA to copy.
Sometimes, the cell makes a mistake and a mutation results. Sometimes mutations are harmless, sometimes they’re beneficial, and sometimes they can be harmful.
What is the outcome of a DNA mutation?
In order to understand how an organism will be affected by a mutation, we first must understand the purpose of DNA. The nucleotides in a strand of DNA are a code that the cell reads in order to create proteins. Every 3 nucleotides (known as a codon) is a message to the cell telling it which amino acid to add to a growing chain. As this chain of amino acids grows, it bends and folds into the shape of a protein. Proteins do all kinds of jobs around a cell and in our bodies. A protein cannot do it’s job if it is not made properly, and a protein cannot be made properly if the instructions (or DNA) are damaged.
DNA Mutations Practice Worksheet with Answer Key (PDF)
If you’re interested in learning more about mutations or helping someone you know learn more, consider the following resources. These worksheets cover:
- DNA mutations and chromosome mutations
- matching DNA with RNA and determining the appropriate amino acid using a codon chart
- matching mutations vocabulary with its definition
- missense, nonsense, and frameshift mutations
- Descriptions of mutations, their causes, and their effects
- open ended questions about mutations and their causes and effects
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