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Genetic Code vs. Codon: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 7, 2023
The genetic code is the set of rules by which information encoded in DNA is translated into proteins, while a codon is a specific sequence of three DNA or RNA nucleotides that corresponds to an amino acid.

Key Differences

The genetic code is a universal set of rules that determine how nucleotide sequences are translated into proteins. However, a codon is a specific combination of three nucleotides within this code.
Each codon specifies an amino acid or a stop signal during protein synthesis. While, the genetic code encompasses all possible codon combinations and their corresponding amino acids.
The genetic code is consistent across most organisms, highlighting its fundamental role in biology. Each codon within this code is essential for accurate protein synthesis.
In the genetic code, multiple codons can encode the same amino acid, a feature known as redundancy. A codon itself is specific to one amino acid or a stop signal.
The genetic code provides the blueprint for building proteins from genes. In this process, each codon in a messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule is read and translated.

Comparison Chart


Set of rules for translating nucleotides into proteins
Sequence of three nucleotides representing an amino acid

Role in Protein Synthesis

Provides overall blueprint for protein synthesis
Specifies individual amino acids in a protein


Generally uniform across all organisms
Specific sequences vary within the genetic code


Consists of codons and their corresponding amino acids
Individual unit/component of the genetic code


Dictates how DNA is converted into proteins
AUG codon signifies the start of protein synthesis

Genetic Code and Codon Definitions

Genetic Code

It is a mapping between DNA sequences and amino acids.
The genetic code translates mRNA sequences into proteins.


Codons specify which amino acids will be added during protein synthesis.
Each codon in an mRNA strand corresponds to a specific amino acid.

Genetic Code

It consists of codons, each encoding an amino acid.
The redundancy in the genetic code helps prevent errors in protein synthesis.


Codons are read during translation in sets of three.
Ribosomes read each codon to assemble amino acids into proteins.

Genetic Code

The genetic code is the set of instructions in DNA for protein synthesis.
The universality of the genetic code is key to genetic engineering.


Codons are the basic units of the genetic code.
There are 64 different codons in the genetic code.

Genetic Code

The genetic code is fundamental to all living organisms.
Studying the genetic code helps understand evolutionary relationships.


A codon is a sequence of three nucleotides in DNA or RNA.
The codon AUG marks the beginning of a protein sequence.

Genetic Code

The genetic code determines how genes are expressed.
Mutations in the genetic code can lead to diseases.


A codon can signal the start or stop of protein synthesis.
The codon UAA is one of the stop signals in protein synthesis.


A sequence of three adjacent nucleotides constituting the genetic code that determines the insertion of a specific amino acid in a polypeptide chain during protein synthesis or the signal to stop protein synthesis.


A handbell used for summoning monks.


The "bell" or flaring mouth of a trumpet.


(biochemistry) A sequence of three adjacent nucleotides, which encode for a specific amino acid during protein synthesis or translation.


A sequence of three nucleotides in a genome or a DNA or messenger RNA molecule, which specifies the incorporation of one amino acid or is a stop signal, during the biosynthesis of proteins. Codons occur within the protein-coding segments of the DNA or RNA genome of living organisms. The amino acid sequence of proteins synthesized on ribosomes is thus determined by the sequence of the nucleotides in the genome.


A specific sequence of three adjacent bases on a strand of DNA or RNA that provides genetic code information for a particular amino acid


How is the genetic code universal?

The genetic code is nearly universal, meaning it is the same across almost all organisms, from bacteria to humans, with few exceptions.

Is the genetic code the same in all organisms?

The genetic code is nearly identical in all organisms, with very few variations, demonstrating a common evolutionary origin.

How does the genetic code relate to proteins?

The genetic code dictates the order of amino acids in a protein, which determines the protein's structure and function.

What is the genetic code?

The genetic code is the set of rules by which information encoded in genetic material (DNA or RNA sequences) is translated into proteins by living cells.

Is the genetic code completely understood?

While the basics of the genetic code are well understood, research continues to uncover more details about its complexities and exceptions.

Can the genetic code change?

Mutations can cause changes in the genetic code, which may lead to variations in protein structure and function.

How many codons are there?

There are 64 codons in total, coding for 20 amino acids and 3 stop signals.

What are the basic units of the genetic code?

The basic units of the genetic code are nucleotides, which form sequences in DNA and RNA.

How many nucleotides make a codon?

Three nucleotides form a codon, which corresponds to a specific amino acid or a stop signal in protein synthesis.

How does the genetic code affect genetic diseases?

Genetic diseases often result from mutations that alter the genetic code, leading to dysfunctional proteins.

What is a codon?

A codon is a sequence of three nucleotides in DNA or RNA that specifies a particular amino acid or a stop signal during protein synthesis.

What is the role of codons in protein synthesis?

Codons are read by ribosomes during translation to assemble amino acids in the correct sequence to form proteins.

Are codons the same in all organisms?

The assignment of codons to amino acids is nearly universal among all organisms, with few exceptions.

What are stop codons?

Stop codons (UAA, UAG, UGA in mRNA) signal the end of a protein-coding sequence and do not code for any amino acid.

What is the significance of the genetic code in evolution?

The genetic code is fundamental to evolutionary biology, as changes in DNA sequences can lead to new traits and species over time.

Can a codon code for more than one amino acid?

Generally, a codon codes for only one amino acid, but some amino acids are coded by multiple codons, known as the redundancy of the genetic code.

What is a silent mutation in a codon?

A silent mutation is a change in a nucleotide that does not change the amino acid specified by a codon, often due to redundancy in the genetic code.

How are codons read during translation?

During translation, ribosomes read mRNA codons in a sequential manner, starting at the start codon and ending at a stop codon, to synthesize proteins.

What is a start codon?

The start codon (AUG in mRNA) signals the beginning of a protein-coding sequence and codes for the amino acid methionine.

How do mutations affect codons?

Mutations can change codons, leading to different amino acids being incorporated into proteins, which can affect protein function.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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