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Genome Biol Evol. 2011;3:332-43. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evr018. Epub 2011 Mar 14.

Evolution of synonymous codon usage in Neurospora tetrasperma and Neurospora discreta.

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Department of Evolutionary Biology, Uppsala University, 752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.


Neurospora comprises a primary model system for the study of fungal genetics and biology. In spite of this, little is known about genome evolution in Neurospora. For example, the evolution of synonymous codon usage is largely unknown in this genus. In the present investigation, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of synonymous codon usage and its relationship to gene expression and gene length (GL) in Neurospora tetrasperma and Neurospora discreta. For our analysis, we examined codon usage among 2,079 genes per organism and assessed gene expression using large-scale expressed sequenced tag (EST) data sets (279,323 and 453,559 ESTs for N. tetrasperma and N. discreta, respectively). Data on relative synonymous codon usage revealed 24 codons (and two putative codons) that are more frequently used in genes with high than with low expression and thus were defined as optimal codons. Although codon-usage bias was highly correlated with gene expression, it was independent of selectively neutral base composition (introns); thus demonstrating that translational selection drives synonymous codon usage in these genomes. We also report that GL (coding sequences [CDS]) was inversely associated with optimal codon usage at each gene expression level, with highly expressed short genes having the greatest frequency of optimal codons. Optimal codon frequency was moderately higher in N. tetrasperma than in N. discreta, which might be due to variation in selective pressures and/or mating systems.

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