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Yeast. 2000 Sep 15;16(12):1131-45.

Relationship of codon bias to mRNA concentration and protein length in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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Department of Genetics, Smurfit Institute, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.


In 1982, Ikemura reported a strikingly unequal usage of different synonymous codons, in five Saccharomyces cerevisiae nuclear genes having high protein levels. To study this trend in detail, we examined data from three independent studies that used oligonucleotide arrays or SAGE to estimate mRNA concentrations for nearly all genes in the genome. Correlation coefficients were calculated for the relationship of mRNA concentration to four commonly used measures of synonymous codon usage bias: the codon adaptation index (CAI), the codon bias index (CBI), the frequency of optimal codons (F(op)), and the effective number of codons (N(c)). mRNA concentration was best approximated as an exponential function of each of these four measures. Of the four, the CAI was the most strongly correlated with mRNA concentration (r(s)=0.62+/-0.01, n=2525, p<10(-17)). When we controlled for CAI, mRNA concentration and protein length were negatively correlated (partial r(s)=-0.23+/-0.01, n=4765, p<10(-17)). This may result from selection to reduce the size of abundant proteins to minimize transcriptional and translational costs. When we controlled for mRNA concentration, protein length and CAI were positively correlated (partial r(s)=0.16+/-0.01, n=4765, p<10(-17)). This may reflect more effective selection in longer genes against missense errors during translation. The correlation coefficients between the mRNA levels of individual genes, as measured by different investigators and methods, were low, in the range r(s)=0.39-0.68.

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