Your DNA Is a Song: Scientists Use Music to Code Proteins

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"This produces a chord for each amino acid," King wrote in an e-mail interview. "Because proteins are an interesting mixture of novel and repetitive elements, like music, the translation to music sounds interesting."

By changing the rules of how notes are assigned to amino acids, composers can create variations in their songs. However, since all proteins have a basic structure, all the protein songs have a basic structure as well, Clark said.

Teaching Tool

According to King, while some scientists have used protein music to help them analyze data, it is most useful as a teaching tool.

If people can understand how the music is produced, he said, they can understand how DNA codes proteins.

Clark said one of the more interesting things demonstrated by the music is the differences and similarities between the same protein of different species.

While some proteins change very little between species, others, such as beta globin, are quite variable.

Therefore, Clark said, by playing the beta globin song for a human and tuatara, an ancient three-eyed lizard, people can hear the process of evolution—a variation on a theme that was present before mammals split from reptiles some 200 million years ago.

"You can hear the parts that remain constant and the parts that change," she said.

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