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A codon is a sequence of three DNA or RNA nucleotides that corresponds with a specific amino acid or stop signal during protein synthesis. DNA and RNA molecules are written in a language of four nucleotides; meanwhile, the language of proteins includes 20 amino acids. Codons provide the key that allows these two languages to be translated into each other. Each codon corresponds to a single amino acid (or stop signal), and the full set of codons is called the genetic code. The genetic code includes 64 possible permutations, or combinations, of three-letter nucleotide sequences that can be made from the four nucleotides. Of the 64 codons, 61 represent amino acids, and three are stop signals. For example, the codon CAG represents the amino acid glutamine, and TAA is a stop codon. The genetic code is described as degenerate, or redundant, because a single amino acid may be coded for by more than one codon. When codons are read from the nucleotide sequence, they are read in succession and do not overlap with one another.

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