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Nucleic Acids Res. 2010 May;38(9):2964-74. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq009. Epub 2010 Jan 21.

Translation efficiency in humans: tissue specificity, global optimization and differences between developmental stages.

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Blavatnik School of Computer Science, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv 69978, Israel.


Various studies in unicellular and multicellular organisms have shown that codon bias plays a significant role in translation efficiency (TE) by co-adaptation to the tRNA pool. Yet, in humans and other mammals the role of codon bias is still an open question, with contradictory results from different studies. Here we address this question, performing a large-scale tissue-specific analysis of TE in humans, using the tRNA Adaptation Index (tAI) as a direct measure for TE. We find tAI to significantly correlate with expression levels both in tissue-specific and in global expression measures, testifying to the TE of human tissues. Interestingly, we find significantly higher correlations in adult tissues as opposed to fetal tissues, suggesting that the tRNA pool is more adjusted to the adult period. Optimization based analysis suggests that the tRNA pool-codon bias co-adaptation is globally (and not tissue-specific) driven. Additionally, we find that tAI correlates with several measures related to the protein functionally importance, including gene essentiality. Using inferred tissue-specific tRNA pools lead to similar results and shows that tissue-specific genes are more adapted to their tRNA pool than other genes and that related sets of functional gene groups are translated efficiently in each tissue. Similar results are obtained for other mammals. Taken together, these results demonstrate the role of codon bias in TE in humans, and pave the way for future studies of tissue-specific TE in multicellular organisms.

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