Unfortunately it makes the unambiguous determination of triplets by these methods much more difficult than would be the case if there were only one triplet for each amino acid.
This seems highly likely, especially as it has been shown that in several systems mutations affecting the same amino acid are extremely near together on the genetic map.
It now seems very likely that many of the 64 triplets, possibly most of them, may code one amino acid or another, and that in general several distinct triplets may code one amino acid.
It now seems certain that the amino acid sequence of any protein is determined by the sequence of bases in some region of a particular nucleic acid molecule.
It is one of the more striking generalizations of biochemistry - which surprisingly is hardly ever mentioned in the biochemical textbooks - that the twenty amino acids and the four bases, are, with minor reservations, the same throughout Nature.
The meaning of this observation is unclear, but it raises the unfortunate possibility of ambiguous triplets; that is, triplets which may code more than one amino acid. However one would certainly expect such triplets to be in a minority.
The balance of evidence both from the cell-free system and from the study of mutation, suggests that this does not occur at random, and that triplets coding the same amino acid may well be rather similar.
A final proof of our ideas can only be obtained by detailed studies on the alterations produced in the amino acid sequence of a protein by mutations of the type discussed here.
A comparison between the triplets tentatively deduced by these methods with the changes in amino acid sequence produced by mutation shows a fair measure of agreement.
It has yet to be shown by direct biochemical methods, as opposed to the indirect genetic evidence mentioned earlier, that the code is indeed a triplet code.
If the code does indeed have some logical foundation then it is legitimate to consider all the evidence, both good and bad, in any attempt to deduce it.
If, for example, all the codons are triplets, then in addition to the correct reading of the message, there are two incorrect readings which we shall obtain if we do not start the grouping into sets of three at the right place.
Attempts have been made from a study of the changes produced by mutation to obtain the relative order of the bases within various triplets, but my own view is that these are premature until there is more extensive and more reliable data on the composition of the triplets.
It would appear that the number of nonsense triplets is rather low, since we only occasionally come across them. However this conclusion is less secure than our other deductions about the general nature of the genetic code.