Medical Definition of Genetic code

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Genetic code: The instructions in a gene that tell the cell how to make a specific protein. A, T, G, and C are the 'letters' of the DNA code and represent the chemicals adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine, respectively. These make up the nucleotide bases of DNA. Each gene's code combines these four chemicals in various ways to spell out three-letter 'words' that specify which amino acid is needed at every step in making a protein. The discovery of the genetic code ranks as one of the premiere events of biology and medicine.

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Reviewed on 12/12/2018

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