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PLoS Comput Biol. 2011 Sep;7(9):e1002127. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002127. Epub 2011 Sep 1.

Genome-scale analysis of translation elongation with a ribosome flow model.

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  • 1Department of Statistics and Operations Research, School of Mathematical Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel.


We describe the first large scale analysis of gene translation that is based on a model that takes into account the physical and dynamical nature of this process. The Ribosomal Flow Model (RFM) predicts fundamental features of the translation process, including translation rates, protein abundance levels, ribosomal densities and the relation between all these variables, better than alternative ('non-physical') approaches. In addition, we show that the RFM can be used for accurate inference of various other quantities including genes' initiation rates and translation costs. These quantities could not be inferred by previous predictors. We find that increasing the number of available ribosomes (or equivalently the initiation rate) increases the genomic translation rate and the mean ribosome density only up to a certain point, beyond which both saturate. Strikingly, assuming that the translation system is tuned to work at the pre-saturation point maximizes the predictive power of the model with respect to experimental data. This result suggests that in all organisms that were analyzed (from bacteria to Human), the global initiation rate is optimized to attain the pre-saturation point. The fact that similar results were not observed for heterologous genes indicates that this feature is under selection. Remarkably, the gap between the performance of the RFM and alternative predictors is strikingly large in the case of heterologous genes, testifying to the model's promising biotechnological value in predicting the abundance of heterologous proteins before expressing them in the desired host.

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