DNA Day experts answer your questions about the processes of DNA mutation

CurioCity
14 May 2013

Above: Image © Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

What exactly occurs during spontaneous mutation?

Sometimes a single subunit of DNA is chemically altered, or removed; sometimes a short piece of DNA is removed, or duplicated. Even entire chromosomes (with 100s of genes can disappear or be duplicated. I think 'spontaneous' is a little misleading, because often such changes are the result of chemicals or radiation getting at the DNA.

- Answer provided by Jay Ingram

How does DNA mutate?

Chemical (mutagenic) agents, and ionizing radiation (e.g. cosmic rays) are common proximal causes of DNA mutation.

- Answer provided by Dr. Paul Gordon

What is the most common gene mutation?

Hi there! From what I know point mutations should be the most common, as it involves the switching of one single nucleotide with another (for example, methylcytosine with thymine). Other types of mutation include deletion, insertion and translocation. For more information, check out here: http://biology.about.com/od/basicgenetics/ss/gene-mutation.htm

- Answer provided by Ethan Yang

To what extent could we genetically mutate (change) our DNA in the future to produce phenotypically new traits in humans.

Wow - why is everyone thinking about how we could change humanity in the future? Let me just say once again: what's technically possible (swapping genes in) and having those changes actually change phenotypes are two very different things. Don't forget 'epigenetics' the alteration of gene expression environmentally.

- Answer provided by Jay Ingram

What is a mutation and how does it occur?

A mutation is when a base of DNA (A, C, G, or T) is changed from one to another, deleted, or added by accident. It can happen as a mistake while the cell is copying its DNA to divide, or it can happen environmentally such as by radiation (for example, UV).

- Answer provided by Dr. Monique Haakensen

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