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Annu Rev Genet. 1992;26:29-50.

Translational accuracy and the fitness of bacteria.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Uppsala University, Sweden.


There are two aspects of the relationship between translational accuracy and the fitness of bacteria that I hope have been clarified in this review. One is that the impact of translational errors on the fitness of bacteria depends very much on nutritional conditions. It would seem that bacterial populations have the capacity to respond to different growth opportunities by the selection of suitable variants. It is particularly surprising how few mutations seem to be required to transform a slowly growing natural isolate with inefficient as well as inaccurate ribosomes into a growth-optimized laboratory strain. It would not be suprising if the selection of the slow, natural isolate phenotype under starvation conditions is equally facile. Another aspect of the accuracy-fitness relationship worth emphasizing is the strong impact of processivity errors and the weak impact of missense errors on the structures of proteins as well as on the growth of cells. What has been learned about translation mechanisms up to now is really only a preliminary to what remains to be discovered about the movements of tRNA, mRNA, and ribosomal subunits that support the processivity of translation. It would be very useful to have more direct methods at hand with which to study these movements. Likewise, the availability of methods to measure processivity errors in natural isolates would help to round out our view of the variability of the ribosomal mechanisms in nature.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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