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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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
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This finding may be evidenced by pre-pregnancy group exposure where their offspring had mutagenic damage, although they were not exposed during any period of direct way.
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Some mutagenic chemicals are found to be active with and without metabolism, while others are active only under one condition or the other.
The two lowest concentrations of CHX (0.16 and 1.60 x [10.sup.-3] mg/mL) did not cause a reduction in the nuclear division index and had no mutagenic effect.
Tacca integrifolia Ker-Gawl, a plant used in Southern Asia, was found to be mutagenic on S.
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Contributors from chemistry and other physical sciences and from a range of medical specialties discuss microscopy techniques for analyzing the phase nature and morphology of biomaterials, scattering techniques for the structural analysis of biomaterials, quantitative assays for measuring cell adhesion and motility in biomaterials, assays for determining cell differentiation, bioreactors for evaluating cell infiltration and tissue formation, studying molecular-scale protein-surface interactions, assessing the mutagenic effects of biomaterials by analyzing the cellular genome and abnormalities, using microarrays to measure cellular changes induced by biomaterials, and standards and methods for assessing the safety and bio-compatibility of biomaterials.