An amino acid residue (other than glycine) has no symmetry elements. The general operation of conversion of one residue of a single chain into a second residue equivalent to the first is accordingly a rotation about an axis accompanied by translation along the axis. Hence the only configurations for a chain compatible with our postulate of equivalence of the residues are helical configurations.
That the primary effect of gene mutation may be as simple as the substitution of a single amino acid by another and may lead to profound secondary changes in protein structure and properties has recently been strongly indicated by the work of Ingram on hemoglobin.
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.
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.