The genetic code is the set of rules by which information encoded in genetic material (DNA or RNA sequences) is translated into proteins (amino acid sequences) by living cells.
Specifically, the code defines a mapping between tri-nucleotide sequences called codons and amino acids; every triplet of nucleotides in a nucleic acid sequence specifies a single amino acid.
Because the vast majority of genes are encoded with exactly the same code, this particular code is often referred to as the canonical or standard genetic code, or simply the genetic code, though in fact there are many variant codes; thus, the canonical genetic code is not universal.
For example, in humans, protein synthesis in mitochondria relies on a genetic code that varies from the canonical code.
The genome of an organism is inscribed in DNA, or in some viruses RNA.
The portion of the genome that codes for a protein or an RNA is referred to as a gene.
Those genes that code for proteins are composed of tri-nucleotide units called codons, each coding for a single amino acid.
Each nucleotide sub-unit consists of a phosphate, deoxyribose sugar and one of the 4 nitrogenous nucleotide bases.
The purine bases adenine (A) and guanine (G) are larger and consist of two aromatic rings.
The pyrimidine bases cytosine (C) and thymine (T) are smaller and consist of only one aromatic ring.
In the double-helix configuration, two strands of DNA are joined to each other by hydrogen bonds in an arrangement known as base pairing.
These bonds almost always form between an adenine base on one strand and a thymine on the other strand and between a cytosine base on one strand and a guanine base on the other.
This means that the number of A and T residues will be the same in a given double helix as will the number of G and C residues.
In RNA, thymine (T) is replaced by uracil (U), and the deoxyribose is substituted by ribose.