What is the strict difference between mutation and DNA damage? As far as I understand it, a mutation is an alteration in the genetic sequence, having "tricked" the repairing machinery and thus getting replicated in the future. DNA damage, on the other hand, is any alteration of the DNA molecule including breaks, chemical alterations of the molecule, etc.

Then, are mutations considered a type of DNA damage? I would thank the strict definition of both concepts.


1 Answer 1


Have you read the DNA repair article on Wikipedia? The DNA damage and mutation section answers exactly what you're asking:

DNA damages and mutation are fundamentally different. Damages are physical abnormalities in the DNA... [and] can be recognized by enzymes, and, thus, they can be correctly repaired if redundant information, such as the undamaged sequence in the complementary DNA strand or in a homologous chromosome, is available for copying.... In contrast to DNA damage, a mutation is a change in the base sequence of the DNA. A mutation cannot be recognized by enzymes once the base change is present in both DNA strands, and, thus, a mutation cannot be repaired.

Here's the entry from the NCBI MeSH Glossary saying the same thing:

Injuries to DNA that introduce deviations from its normal, intact structure and which may, if left unrepaired, result in a MUTATION or a block of DNA REPLICATION... They include the introduction of illegitimate bases during replication or by deamination or other modification of bases; the loss of a base from the DNA backbone leaving an abasic site; single-strand breaks; double strand breaks; and intrastrand (PYRIMIDINE DIMERS) or interstrand crosslinking. Damage can often be repaired (DNA REPAIR).

And for mutation:

Any detectable and heritable change in the genetic material that causes a change in the GENOTYPE and which is transmitted to daughter cells and to succeeding generations.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Usually a mutation occur when one strand got a modified base and the enzyme correct it by choosing the "wrong" strand as a template, therefore both strands are modified and there is nothing to repair anymore. Is it correct? $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Oct 16, 2013 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ Basically, yeah. Errors in the DNA repair enzymes themselves will allow a whole mess of trouble. $\endgroup$
    – Amory
    Oct 16, 2013 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ i did read the article, but i wanted a more reliable answer as sometimes wikipedia might lack precission $\endgroup$
    – Katz
    Oct 28, 2013 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JunkDNA I won't argue with you there, but for definitions it's usually spot on. Still, I added the appropriate definitions from NCBI. $\endgroup$
    – Amory
    Oct 28, 2013 at 12:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .