Silent mutations are DNA mutations that do not result in a change to the amino acid sequence of a protein. They may occur in a non-coding region (outside of a gene or within an intron), or they may occur within an exon in a manner that does not alter the final amino acid sequence. The phrase silent mutation is often used interchangeably with the phrase synonymous mutation; however, synonymous mutations are a subcategory of the former, occurring only within exons.
Because silent mutations do not alter protein function they are often treated as though they are evolutionarily neutral. However, many organisms are known to exhibit codon usage biases, suggesting that there is selection for the use of particular codons due to translational stability. Silent mutations may also affect splicing, or transcriptional control.
In molecular cloning experiments, it can be useful to introduce silent mutations into a gene of interest in order to create or remove recognition sites for restriction enzymes. An online tool that can analyse a sequence of interest for possible mutations to create restriction sites is given in the External Links section.
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