Difference Between Codon and Anticodon (With Table)

Human biology consists of fascinating facts of all the bodily processes and mechanisms involved to carry out the living activity. All the microscopic activities in a cell determine the outcome we observe. Genetic codes are a set of instructions sequence that guides the information (for eg. the color of eyes, skin color)  as a nucleotide to pass on in sequence and translate it into the respective protein.

Coding is basically done to form pairs just like a mathematical equation where ‘x+y’ would definitely give a ‘z’.

In a living being, everything is coded from a very microscopic level to form complexity in characters and the key outcome of coding is the protein formation that remains the basic block of all the functioning and structure. Codons and Anticodons code simultaneously in order to build a chain of a polypeptide during the protein synthesis.

Codon vs Anticodon

The main difference between Codon and Anticodon is their placement, codon is placed in the mRNA (messenger RNA) strand in series whereas anticodon is placed in one of the loops of tRNA (transfer RNA) individually during the protein synthesis.


Comparison Table Between Codon and Anticodon (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of Comparison




It’s situated in the mRNA strand.

Anticodon can be found in one of the loops in a (transfer RNA) tRNA.


Codon transfers the genetic information from the nucleus of DNA to the mRNA.

It carries amino acid in its tRNA structure.


They are read from 5′ to 3′ where the numbers define the orientation of nucleotides.

The reading frame is from 3′ to 5′ direction.


It is complementary to the parent DNA’s nucleotide from where it got converted to a single-stranded RNA.

Anticodons are complementary to their respective codons as per base-pairing rules.


The mRNA chain consists of multiple nucleotides grouped in 3 to form many codon units.

For each tRNA, there is just one amino acid and a single anticodon.


What is Codon?

A codon is an assembly of nucleotides, a three-base sequence of nitrogenous bases in a row, that performs at the time of translation, a group of three nucleotides forms a specific code which determines what output would come.

mRNA which is a single-stranded molecule of polynucleotide consisting of adenine, guanine, cytosine, uracil as nucleotides form a set of three in different orders to form subsequent codons.

In simple words, the codon is a language with the capability to communicate and express using nucleotides as words and polypeptide as a sentence where words form sentences and create a language to run a bodily function.

Understanding how amino acid is coded helps under human traits and how a change in the nucleotide sequence can alter this.

Start Codon: It is a universal codon and the very first nucleotide of messenger RNA that initiates any process of gene formation. AUG ( Adenine, Uracil, and Guanine) codes for Methionine which is a start codon.

Stop Codon: Codons are 64 in totality but only 61 codes for an amino acid. The three remaining do not code for anything hence the term stop codon. They help in the termination of the process once the required protein is formed.


What is Anticodon?

Anticodon is a three-base pair of nucleotides much like codon, they help proceed with the protein synthesis while binding with the codons on the mRNA strand.

It is found in the tRNA which consists of different loops each carrying information, the top region carries amino acid and the bottom one carries an individual anticodon during the translation process.

As the namesake tRNA, it helps in the transfer. It acts as a carrier, that is, it just carries amino acid to the ribosome during translation. It makes sure the correct codon is being recognized which happens through the complementarity phenomenon of genetic coding and base-pairing rule.

After recognizing a suitable partner in the codon chain it binds with it through a hydrogen bond at the time of protein production. Just like Codons, anticodons too are 61 in number while 3 remain the stop codons with AUG (methionine) as a universal start codon.

UGA, UAA, and UAG are the three stop codons and the placement of one of them in the mRNA strand terminates the translation process where no anticodon can recognize them, and the protein is released.

Main Differences Between Codon and Anticodon

  1. The main difference between codon and anti codon is that both are situated differently, the codon which is a set of three nucleotide is found on the messenger RNA whereas tRNA carrying amino acid contains anti codon in one of its loop structures.
  2. Codons are in multiple sequences where start codon initiates and stop codon ends, anti codons appear individually in each tRNA molecule.
  3. The reading frame of the codon is 5′ to 3′ and the anti codons follows directions 3′ to 5′.
  4. The nucleotide in codon set compliments with that of DNA from the transcription process but anti codons are complementary to its codon.
  5. Codon carries the genetic information to the mRNA from the transcription process whereas anti codon brings amino acid in the tRNA structure during translation.



The mechanism inside a living cell is super complex and full of specific codes that determine the end result and it’s highly organized. Codon and anticodon carry genetic information within each base pair that affects the synthesis of subsequent protein molecules responsible for different traits and diversity.

Both codon and Anticodon are specialized to work in pairs in the placement of amino acids and the process of protein synthesis. They are the languages that communicate together and give a byproduct of polypeptides. Specific base pairing initiates the process of codon and anticodon pairing and the stop codon helps in terminating it.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1074552102000947
  2. https://www.pnas.org/content/72/11/4248.short