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Genetics. 2003 Jan;163(1):239-43.

In vivo introduction of unpreferred synonymous codons into the Drosophila Adh gene results in reduced levels of ADH protein.

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Department of Biology, American University, Washington, DC 20016, USA.


The evolution of codon bias, the unequal usage of synonymous codons, is thought to be due to natural selection for the use of preferred codons that match the most abundant species of isoaccepting tRNA, resulting in increased translational efficiency and accuracy. We examined this hypothesis by introducing 1, 6, and 10 unpreferred codons into the Drosophila alcohol dehydrogenase gene (Adh). We observed a significant decrease in ADH protein production with number of unpreferred codons, confirming the importance of natural selection as a mechanism leading to codon bias. We then used this empirical relationship to estimate the selection coefficient (s) against unpreferred synonymous mutations and found the value (s >or= 10(-5)) to be approximately one order of magnitude greater than previous estimates from population genetics theory. The observed differences in protein production appear to be too large to be consistent with current estimates of the strength of selection on synonymous sites in D. melanogaster.

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