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Mol Biol Evol. 2002 Sep;19(9):1575-84.

A strong effect of AT mutational bias on amino acid usage in Buchnera is mitigated at high-expression genes.

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  • 1Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA.


The advent of full genome sequences provides exceptionally rich data sets to explore molecular and evolutionary mechanisms that shape divergence among and within genomes. In this study, we use multivariate analysis to determine the processes driving genome-wide patterns of amino usage in the obligate endosymbiont Buchnera and its close free-living relative Escherichia coli. In the AT-rich Buchnera genome, the primary source of variation in amino acid usage differentiates high- and low-expression genes. Amino acids of high-expression Buchnera genes are generally less aromatic and use relatively GC-rich codons, suggesting that selection against aromatic amino acids and against amino acids with AT-rich codons is stronger in high-expression genes. Selection to maintain hydrophobic amino acids in integral membrane proteins is a primary factor driving protein evolution in E. coli but is a secondary factor in Buchnera. In E. coli, gene expression is a secondary force driving amino acid usage, and a correlation with tRNA abundance suggests that translational selection contributes to this effect. Although this and previous studies demonstrate that AT mutational bias and genetic drift influence amino acid usage in Buchnera, this genome-wide analysis argues that selection is sufficient to affect the amino acid content of proteins with different expression and hydropathy levels.

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