Multiple Reading Frames in DNA

glover martin gwmartin at
Sun Apr 13 12:49:07 EST 1997

Tim Taylor (timt at wrote:
: Hi,

: As a non-biologist, I have a small question which I hope someone
: can give me a quick answer to.

Can I give it a try?

: I'm sure I've read in the dim and distant past that the DNA of
: some organisms includes sections which are transcribed multiple
: times starting from different bases (different reading frames).

OK.  Different transcription start and end points does not necessarily
mean different reading frames, which almost always refers to translation
or protein synthesis. 

: These therefore get translated into completely different
: proteins, so the genome is encoding multiple messages in the  
: same bit of DNA.

Yes, this happens and is quite important.  One example is regulated frame
shifting (do literature search on "antizyme").  Also happens alot in

There are also the obvious transcriptional/RNA processing events.
Alternative splicing, exon skipping, use of alternate
clevage/polyadenylation sites.  And then there's the use of both DNA
strands in a region as templates for transcription.

: Can someone tell me what this phenomenon is called (if it has a
: special name), and give me an example (with a reference to a
: book, paper etc. if at all possible)?

Hate to be so short, but hope this helps.


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