Phenotypic mutations contribute to protein diversity and shape protein evolution

Protein Sci. 2022 Sep;31(9):e4397. doi: 10.1002/pro.4397.


Errors in DNA replication generate genetic mutations, while errors in transcription and translation lead to phenotypic mutations. Phenotypic mutations are orders of magnitude more frequent than genetic ones, yet they are less understood. Here, we review the types of phenotypic mutations, their quantifications, and their role in protein evolution and disease. The diversity generated by phenotypic mutation can facilitate adaptive evolution. Indeed, phenotypic mutations, such as ribosomal frameshift and stop codon readthrough, sometimes serve to regulate protein expression and function. Phenotypic mutations have often been linked to fitness decrease and diseases. Thus, understanding the protein heterogeneity and phenotypic diversity caused by phenotypic mutations will advance our understanding of protein evolution and have implications on human health and diseases.

Keywords: frameshifts; protein evolution; transcriptional errors; translational errors.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Codon, Terminator
  • DNA Replication*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Protein Biosynthesis*


  • Codon, Terminator