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DNA Res. 2011 Dec;18(6):499-512. doi: 10.1093/dnares/dsr035. Epub 2011 Oct 27.

Mutation bias is the driving force of codon usage in the Gallus gallus genome.

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Department of Biological Technology, Jiangxi Educational Institute, Nanchang, China.


Synonymous codons are used with different frequencies both among species and among genes within the same genome and are controlled by neutral processes (such as mutation and drift) as well as by selection. Up to now, a systematic examination of the codon usage for the chicken genome has not been performed. Here, we carried out a whole genome analysis of the chicken genome by the use of the relative synonymous codon usage (RSCU) method and identified 11 putative optimal codons, all of them ending with uracil (U), which is significantly departing from the pattern observed in other eukaryotes. Optimal codons in the chicken genome are most likely the ones corresponding to highly expressed transfer RNA (tRNAs) or tRNA gene copy numbers in the cell. Codon bias, measured as the frequency of optimal codons (Fop), is negatively correlated with the G + C content, recombination rate, but positively correlated with gene expression, protein length, gene length and intron length. The positive correlation between codon bias and protein, gene and intron length is quite different from other multi-cellular organism, as this trend has been only found in unicellular organisms. Our data displayed that regional G + C content explains a large proportion of the variance of codon bias in chicken. Stepwise selection model analyses indicate that G + C content of coding sequence is the most important factor for codon bias. It appears that variation in the G + C content of CDSs accounts for over 60% of the variation of codon bias. This study suggests that both mutation bias and selection contribute to codon bias. However, mutation bias is the driving force of the codon usage in the Gallus gallus genome. Our data also provide evidence that the negative correlation between codon bias and recombination rates in G. gallus is determined mostly by recombination-dependent mutational patterns.

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