Quaternionic representation of the genetic code


Abstract A heuristic diagram of the evolution of the standard genetic code is presented. It incorporates, in a way that resembles the energy levels of an atom, the physical notion of broken symmetry and it is consistent with original ideas by Crick on the origin and evolution of the code as well as with the chronological order of appearance of the amino acids along the evolution as inferred from work that mixtures known experimental results with theoretical speculations. Suggested by the diagram we propose a Hamilton quaternions based mathematical representation of the code as it stands now-a-days. The central object in the description is a codon function that assigns to each amino acid an integer quaternion in such a way that the observed code degeneration is preserved. We emphasize the advantages of a quaternionic representation of amino acids taking as an example the folding of proteins. With this aim we propose an algorithm to go from the quaternions sequence to the protein three dimensional structure which can be compared with the corresponding experimental one stored at the Protein Data Bank. In our criterion the mathematical representation of the genetic code in terms of quaternions merits to be taken into account because it describes not only most of the known properties of the genetic code but also opens new perspectives that are mainly derived from the close relationship between quaternions and rotations.