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Proteins. 2005 Jul 1;60(1):27-35.

Universal biases in protein composition of model prokaryotes.

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Genoscope/CNRS UMR 8030, Atelier de Génomique Comparative, Evry, France.


The levels of cellular organization in living organisms are the results of a variety of selection pressures. We have investigated here the final outcome of this integrated selective process in proteins of the best known microbial models Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, and Methanococcus jannaschii, supposed to have undergone separate evolution for more than 1 billion years. Using multivariate analysis methods, including correspondence analysis, we studied the overall amino acid composition of all proteins making a proteome. Starting from and further developing previous results that had pointed out some general forces driving the amino acid composition of the proteomes of these model bacteria, we explored the correlations existing between the structure and functions of the proteins forming a proteome and their amino acid composition. The electric charge of amino acids measured against hydrophobicity creates a highly homogeneous cluster, made exclusively of proteins that are core components of the cytoplasmic membrane of the cell (integral inner membrane proteins). A second bias is imposed by the G+C content of the genome, indicating that protein functions are so robust with respect to amino acid changes that they can accommodate a large shift in the nucleotide content of the genome. A remarkable role of aromatic amino acids was uncovered. Expressed orphan proteins are enriched in these residues, suggesting that they might participate in a process of gain of function during evolution.

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