Is DNA a language like any other ?

08 December 2021 par Patricia Siguier
DNA: a 4-letter alphabet

Comparable to a language, DNA carries and transmits messages expressed by our genes. This massive, coded genetic information is deciphered and read by scientists using computational biology methods. Mathieu Bergé, biologist, and Roland Barriot, bioinformatician (LMGM – CBI) act as translators. Case study of a talkative bacterium with unique communication methods: the pneumococcus.

DNA: a 4-letter alphabet

While the French language uses 26 letters to form syllables that make up words written in a dictionary, and computer language uses 0’s and 1’s to transmit information, in biology, 4 letters encode all the genetic information contained in our DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). The nucleotides are assembled into codons that make up the genes on the DNA molecule. “Conceptually, DNA can be seen as a language,” say Mathieu Bergé and Roland Barriot, teacher-researchers at the University of Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier, “It is a four-letter alphabet that forms words with thousands of characters.

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Mathieu Bergé, Roland Barriot