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see mutationmutation,
in biology, a sudden, random change in a gene, or unit of hereditary material, that can alter an inheritable characteristic. Most mutations are not beneficial, since any change in the delicate balance of an organism having a high level of adaptation to its environment
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a physical or chemical substance that causes permanent hereditary change.

Physical mutagens include ultraviolet radiation and all kinds of ionizing radiation, such as gamma rays, X rays, protons, and neutrons. High and low temperatures are much less capable of causing mutations.

As study intensifies, the list of compounds with mutagenic action grows longer. Among the chemical mutagens are many alkylating compounds, for example, mustard gas, dimethyl sulfate, and nitrosomethylurea; analogs of nitrogenous bases of the nucleic acids, for example, 5-bromouracil and 2-aminopurine; acridine dyes; nitrous acid; some alkaloids; formaldehyde; hydrogen peroxide and some organic peroxides; and some bio-polymers, for example, heterologous DNA and, apparently, heterologous RNA.

The most powerful chemical mutagens, which increase the frequency of mutations hundreds of times, are called super-mutagens. Some viruses might also be considered chemical mutagens, since the mutagenic factor in viruses seems to be located in their DNA or RNA.

Mutagens are apparently universal, that is, they can cause mutations in all forms of life—from viruses and bacteria to the higher plants, animals, and man. Various species differ in their mutability, that is, their sensitivity to mutagens. None of the known mutagens appear to have a lower limit of mutagenic action. However, the frequency of induced mutations decreases with the decreasing dose of mutagen to a point that matches the frequency of spontaneous mutations regularly occurring in the absence of any mutagen.

Physical and chemical mutagens are widely used in breeding agriculturally useful plants and useful microorganisms. Once the mutation is induced, the mutant is artificially removed from the population and bred as a separate species. These mutations are used in artificial selection.


See references under .
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


An agent that raises the frequency of mutation above the spontaneous or background rate.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a substance or agent that can induce genetic mutation
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Enhanced enzyme production has already been reported using this mutagen (Iftikhar et al., 2010; Javed et al., 2011).
fistulosus seeds with physical mutagens. Seeds were initially placed in a desiccator with 70% glycerol for two days for moisture equilibration to about 15-20%.
The positive control using MMS as mutagen was expected to yield higher counts of micronuclei as it was used to induce mutations.
We also examined associations between meat mutagen intake and sub-sites of CRC using meat mutagen intake as a continuous variable [per standard deviation (SD) of log (natural logarithm)-transformed meat mutagen intake].
Lead, nickel, arsenic, cadmium and chromium, or their compounds, are all known or suspected mutagens or carcinogens (Leonard and Lauwerys 1980; Arlauskas et al.
By elevating the concentration of mutagen shoot length was stunned with decrease height (Table 1).
Groundnut has been exposed variously to mutagenic treatments for induction of variability and improvement using both physical and chemical mutagens. Mutants have been obtained in groundnut either spontaneously or induced by physical or chemical mutagens for characteristics like lethal, chlorophyll deficiencies, plant stature, growth habit, branching pattern, pod and nuts yields[10, 11, 12].
According to table 3,4 and Figure 1 Date Palm Pollen extract increased significantly percentage of normal type and decreased percentage of mutagen types of Solanum melongena L.
The rat eventually rescued the ooze-drenched turtles, getting the mutagen onto himself as well.
Thereafter, the paper uncovers the mutagen metaphor and assesses the fit between entrepreneurship and mutagen.
However, many mutagens and carcinogens may act through the generation of ROS [6].
Induction of abasic sites by the drinking-water mutagen MX in Salmonella TA100.