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Copyright © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Codon bias as a factor in regulating expression via translation rate in the human genome

Yizhar Lavner and Daniel KotlarCorresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author

Department of Computer Science, Tel Hai Academic College, Upper Galilee 12210, Israel

Received by H.E. Roman.  Available online 24 December 2004.


We study the interrelations between tRNA gene copy numbers, gene expression levels and measures of codon bias in the human genome. First, we show that isoaccepting tRNA gene copy numbers correlate positively with expression-weighted frequencies of amino acids and codons. Using expression data of more than 14,000 human genes, we show a weak positive correlation between gene expression level and frequency of optimal codons (codons with highest tRNA gene copy number). Interestingly, contrary to non-mammalian eukaryotes, codon bias tends to be high in both highly expressed genes and lowly expressed genes. We suggest that selection may act on codon bias, not only to increase elongation rate by favoring optimal codons in highly expressed genes, but also to reduce elongation rate by favoring non-optimal codons in lowly expressed genes. We also show that the frequency of optimal codons is in positive correlation with estimates of protein biosynthetic cost, and suggest another possible action of selection on codon bias: preference of optimal codons as production cost rises, to reduce the rate of amino acid misincorporation. In the analyses of this work, we introduce a new measure of frequency of optimal codons (FOP′), which is unaffected by amino acid composition and is corrected for background nucleotide content; we also introduce a new method for computing expected codon frequencies, based on the dinucleotide composition of the introns and the non-coding regions surrounding a gene.

Keywords: Homo sapiens; Codon bias; Gene expression; Translation efficiency; Optimal codon; Biosynthetic cost

Abbreviations: CB, codon bias; ENC, effective number of codons; FOP, frequency of optimal codons; MCB, maximum likelihood codon bias

Corresponding Author Contact InformationCorresponding author. Tel.: +972 4 6952965; fax: +972 4 6952899.

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