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Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2003 Oct;33(4-5):457-77.

The case for an error minimizing standard genetic code.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Catonsville, MD, USA.


Since discovering the pattern by which amino acids are assigned to codons within the standard genetic code, investigators have explored the idea that natural selection placed biochemically similar amino acids near to one another in coding space so as to minimize the impact of mutations and/or mistranslations. The analytical evidence to support this theory has grown in sophistication and strength over the years, and counterclaims questioning its plausibility and quantitative support have yet to transcend some significant weaknesses in their approach. These weaknesses are illustrated here by means of a simple simulation model for adaptive genetic code evolution. There remain ill explored facets of the 'error minimizing' code hypothesis, however, including the mechanism and pathway by which an adaptive pattern of codon assignments emerged, the extent to which natural selection created synonym redundancy, its role in shaping the amino acid and nucleotide languages, and even the correct interpretation of the adaptive codon assignment pattern: these represent fertile areas for future research.

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