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The Collaborative International Dictionary

mutagen \mu"ta*gen\ (m[=u]"t[.a]*j[e^]n), n. A chemical compound or other external influence (such as ionizing radiation) which causes mutations[3].

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1946, from mutation + -gen "thing that produces." Related: Mutagenic; mutagenesis; mutagenize.


n. any agent or substance that can cause genetic mutation


n. any agent (physical or environmental) that can induce a genetic mutation or can increase the rate of mutation


In genetics, a mutagen is a physical or chemical agent that changes the genetic material, usually DNA, of an organism and thus increases the frequency of mutations above the natural background level. As many mutations can cause cancer, mutagens are therefore also likely to be carcinogens, although not always necessarily so. All mutagens are genotoxic. Not all mutations are caused by mutagens: so-called "spontaneous mutations" occur due to spontaneous hydrolysis, errors in DNA replication, repair and recombination.

Usage examples of "mutagen".

The role of cooked food mutagens as possible etiological agents in human cancer: A critical appraisal of recent epidemiological investigations.

It would be a golden opportunity to study the mutagen before anyone else, to categorize the effects and pick apart the virion right down to its smallest capsid.

Fisher also thought that they were sick and dying from the effect of living among low-level mutagens that had slowly soaked into their bones.

If he told Beckmann he wanted to analyze a mutagen immunity drug, he would receive cooperation immediately.

She was piggybacking a mutagen to a weakened form of avian influenza for the pigeon problem.

He seldom washed lab glassware and twice had been accused of not wiping up spills of ethidium bromide -- a strong mutagen -- on lab counters.