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Trends Microbiol. 2009 Apr;17(4):146-50. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2009.01.005. Epub 2009 Mar 21.

Biased codon usage in signal peptides: a role in protein export.

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  • 1School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia 4072, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.


The signal peptide of proteins exported via the general secretory pathway encodes structural features that enable the targeting and export of the protein to the periplasm. Recent studies have shown biased codon usage at the second amino acid position and a high usage of non-optimal codons within the signal peptide. Altering these biases in codon usage can have deleterious effects on protein folding and export. We propose that these codon-usage biases act in concert to optimize the export process through modulating ribosome spacing on the transcript. This highlights a new aspect of protein export and implies that codon usage in the signal peptide encodes signals that are important for protein targeting and export to the periplasm.

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