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Genet Mol Res. 2003 Dec 30;2(4):383-93.

Preferred amino acids and thermostability.

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  • 1Departamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ci√™ncias Biol√≥gicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, 31270.901 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil. stfarias@yahoo.com.br


Most organisms grow at temperatures from 20 to 50 degrees C, but some prokaryotes, including Archaea and Bacteria, are capable of withstanding higher temperatures, from 60 to >100 degrees C. Their biomolecules, especially proteins, must be sufficiently stable to function under these extreme conditions; however, the basis for thermostability remains elusive. We investigated the preferential usage of certain groupings of amino acids and codons in thermally adapted organisms, by comparative proteome analysis, using 28 complete genomes from 18 mesophiles (M), 4 thermophiles (T), and 6 hyperthermophiles (HT). Whenever the percent of glutamate (E) and lysine (K) increased in the HT proteomes, the percent of glutamine (Q) and histidine (H) decreased, so that the E + K/Q + H ratio was >4.5; it was <2.5 in the M proteomes, and 3.2 to 4.6 in T. The E + K/Q + H ratios for chaperonins, potentially thermostable proteins, were higher than their proteome ratios, whereas for DNA ligases, which are not necessarily thermostable, they followed the proteome ratios. Analysis of codon usage revealed that HT had more AGR codons for Arg than they did CGN codons, which were more common in mesophiles. The E + K/Q + H ratio may provide a useful marker for distinguishing HT, T and M prokaryotes, and the high percentage of the amino acid couple E + K, consistently associated with a low percentage of the pair Q + H, could contribute to protein thermostability. The preponderance of AGR codons for Arg is a signature of all HT so far analyzed. The E + K/Q + H ratio and the codon bias for Arg are apparently not related to phylogeny. HT members of the Bacteria show the same values as the HT members of the Archaea; the values for T organisms are related to their lifestyle (intermediate temperature) and not to their domain (Archaea) and the values for M are similar in Eukarya, Bacteria and Archaea.

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