Difference between Conserved and Consensus Sequence

Genetic sequences are subject to change all the time. They undergo mutations, deletions, translocations and transversions that change the sequences gradually over time. Despite such forces, there are sequences that remain unchanged, such as conserved and consensus sequences.

Below is a comparison chart that differentiates between a conserved and consensus sequence.

Conserved Sequence

A sequence that is found similar among species is referred to as the conserved sequence. It is a chain of DNA or RNA that exists consistently in organisms in a phylogenetic tree, meaning a sequence that is conserved since the time of ancestors. A conserved sequence indicates that it has been naturally selected.

Conserved sequences find applications in building phylogenetic trees. Bioinformatics tools such as BLAST and HMMER are used for multiple sequence alignment that yields aligned conserved sequences in multiple organisms at once.

Conserved sequences can also be used to find out underlying genetic anomalies that arise as a result of changes in conserved sequences, such as congenital metabolic disorders.

Example: The homeobox sequence in plants and animals is a conserved sequence of 180 pairs that plays a role in major developmental processes.

Consensus Sequence

Consensus sequences are short stretches of nucleotides that occur multiple times in the conserved sequences. They occur in different locations to perform the same functions. A conserved sequence is illustrated by multiple consensus sequences.

The consensus sequences act as binding sites for other molecules. Example: the TATA box in E.coli is a consensus sequence that acts as a promoter for the initiation of transcription.

A consensus sequence is often referred to as a box.

They serve as a site that redirects molecules to certain locations for regulation of cells. The consensus sequences can be studied across generations of animals to find out about their rate of evolution.

Conserved vs Consensus Sequence

Conserved Sequence

Consensus Sequence


A similar sequence found among a variety of species is referred to as the conserved sequence.

A short fragment of nucleotides that occurs multiple times in a conserved sequence.


  • It is used by bioinformaticians to construct phylogenetic trees.
  • It can also be used to study genetic anomalies.
  • It serves as a site for binding and redirecting certain regulatory molecules.
  • It is also helpful in studying the rate of evolution.


Homeobox sequence in plants and animals.

TATA box in prokaryotes.

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Frequently Asked Questions


Is consensus sequence conserved?

A known conserved sequence set is notified by consensus sequences.


What binds to consensus sequence?

Transcription factors, promoters, repressors and activators are some molecules that bind to the consensus sequences.


Are consensus sequences found in prokaryotes and eukaryotes?

Consensus sequences are more widely found in prokaryotes.


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