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J Mol Evol. 2005 Oct;61(4):437-44. Epub 2005 Sep 13.

Relationships among stop codon usage bias, its context, isochores, and gene expression level in various eukaryotes.

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School of Life Sciences & Technology, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai 200240, China.


It is well known that stop codons play a critical role in the process of protein synthesis. However, little effort has been made to investigate whether stop codon usage exhibits biases, such as widely seen for synonymous codon usage. Here we systematically investigate stop codon usage bias in various eukaryotes as well as its relationships with its context, GC3 content, gene expression level, and secondary structure. The results show that there is a strong bias for stop codon usage in different eukaryotes, i.e., UAA is overrepresented in the lower eukaryotes, UGA is overrepresented in the higher eukaryotes, and UAG is least used in all eukaryotes. Different conserved patterns for each stop codon in different eukaryotic classes are found based on information content and logo analysis. GC3 contents increase with increasing complexity of organisms. Secondary structure prediction revealed that UAA is generally associated with loop structures, whereas UGA is more uniformly present in loop and stem structures, i.e., UGA is less biased toward having a particular structure. The stop codon usage bias, however, shows no significant relationship with GC3 content and gene expression level in individual eukaryotes. The results indicate that genomic complexity and GC3 content might contribute to stop codon usage bias in different eukaryotes. Our results indicate that stop codons, like synonymous codons, exhibit biases in usage. Additional work will be needed to understand the causes of these biases and their relationship to the mechanism of protein termination.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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