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7: Mutation and Repair of DNA

Most biological molecules have a limited lifetime. Many proteins, lipids and RNAs are degraded when they are no longer needed or damaged, and smaller molecules such as sugars are metabolized to compounds to make or store energy. In contrast, DNA is the most stable biological molecule known, befitting its role in storage of genetic information. The DNA is passed from one generation to another, and it is degraded only when cells die. However, it can change, i.e. it is mutable. Mutations, or changes in the nucleotide sequence, can result from errors during DNA replication, from covalent changes in structure because of reaction with chemical or physical agents in the environment, or from transposition. Most of the sequence alterations are repaired in cells. Some of the major avenues for changing DNA sequences and repairing those mutations will be discussed in this chapter.