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What is a DNA mutation?

A mutation is a change in a DNA sequence. DNA mutations in a gene can change what protein is made. Mutations present in the eggs and sperm (germline mutations) can be passed on from parent to child, while mutations that occur in body cells (somatic mutations) cannot be inherited.

What are different types of DNA mutations?

The three types of DNA mutations include base deletions, insertions, and substitutions. A deletion mutation refers to the loss of genetic information. This type of mutation can be as small as a single DNA base pair or large, such as a piece of a chromosome. An insertion mutation is the addition of an extra nucleotide, or base pair, to the DNA strand. A substitution mutation is the replacement of one base pair with another. This single base pair substitution is also known as a point mutation and is the most common type of DNA mutation. 

What is a mutation in DNA?

A DNA mutation is a change that occurs in the DNA sequence either as a result of mistakes made during DNA replication or by various environmental factors. Most of us have many DNA mutations in our genetic material that happen each day. Many of these mutations are neutral or do not have any significant effect on how our genes are expressed and our overall health. However, others can be beneficial or harmful based on the location or site at which the mutation occurs. 

What causes mutations in DNA?

Mutations are caused by factors known as mutagens. These mutagens can be due to a virus or infection as well as other environmental elements such as smoke, pollutants, UV light, radiation, or certain chemicals. Typically, the body is able to repair damage to the DNA strand that might cause mutations. However, if errors are not caught, the DNA strand will be copied or replicated with these changes or mutations. 

Learn more about DNA Mutations:

Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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