Examples of Frameshift Mutation

Frameshift mutation is a type of genetic mutation that occurs when nucleotides are inserted or deleted from a DNA sequence, causing a shift in the reading frame during protein synthesis. This alteration in the reading frame can have significant consequences, leading to the production of a non-functional or altered protein. In this article, we will explore examples of frameshift mutations and their implications for genetic disorders and evolutionary processes.

Example 1: Tay-Sachs Disease

Tay-Sachs disease is a severe genetic disorder that primarily affects the nervous system. It is caused by a frameshift mutation in the HEXA gene, which leads to the absence or reduced activity of an enzyme called hexosaminidase A. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down a fatty substance called GM2 ganglioside. In individuals with Tay-Sachs disease, the frameshift mutation disrupts the production of functional hexosaminidase A, resulting in the accumulation of GM2 ganglioside in the nerve cells. This accumulation leads to progressive neurological deterioration, causing symptoms such as loss of motor skills, seizures, and eventually, death.

Example 2: Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a common genetic disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. It is caused by mutations in the CFTR gene, with one of the most common mutations being a frameshift mutation known as deltaF508. This mutation results in the deletion of a single amino acid in the CFTR protein, leading to a misfolded and dysfunctional protein. The defective CFTR protein disrupts the normal flow of salt and water across cell membranes, causing the production of thick and sticky mucus in the lungs and other affected organs. This mucus buildup leads to respiratory infections, digestive problems, and other complications associated with cystic fibrosis.

Example 3: Hemophilia A

Hemophilia A is a bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency or dysfunction of clotting factor VIII, a protein involved in the blood clotting process. One of the underlying causes of hemophilia A is a frameshift mutation in the F8 gene, which encodes factor VIII. This frameshift mutation disrupts the normal production of functional factor VIII, leading to impaired blood clotting and prolonged bleeding. The severity of hemophilia A can vary depending on the specific mutation and the residual activity of factor VIII.

Example 4: Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC)

Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, also known as Lynch syndrome, is an inherited condition that increases the risk of developing colorectal and other types of cancer. It is caused by mutations in genes involved in DNA mismatch repair, including MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, and PMS2. Frameshift mutations in these genes can disrupt the normal function of the DNA mismatch repair system, leading to the accumulation of genetic errors and an increased risk of cancer development.

Example 5: Evolutionary Significance

Frameshift mutations can also have evolutionary significance. In some cases, frameshift mutations may introduce novel genetic variations that can lead to the emergence of new traits or adaptations. For example, the evolution of the immune system in jawed vertebrates is believed to be influenced by frameshift mutations that generated diverse antigen receptor genes. These mutations allowed for the recognition of a wide range of pathogens, enhancing the ability to mount an immune response.


Frameshift mutations are genetic alterations that can have profound effects on protein structure and function. The examples of Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia A, hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, and their implications for human health highlight the detrimental consequences of frameshift mutations. However, frameshift mutations can also contribute to genetic diversity and evolutionary processes, playing a role in the emergence of new traits and adaptations. Understanding frameshift mutations is crucial for unraveling the mechanisms of genetic diseases and the complexities of evolution.

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