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Mol Biol Evol. 2012 Aug;29(8):1975-86. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss065. Epub 2012 Feb 14.

Genome-wide selection on codon usage at the population level in the fungal model organism Neurospora crassa.

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


Many organisms exhibit biased codon usage in their genome, including the fungal model organism Neurospora crassa. The preferential use of subset of synonymous codons (optimal codons) at the macroevolutionary level is believed to result from a history of selection to promote translational efficiency. At present, few data are available about selection on optimal codons at the microevolutionary scale, that is, at the population level. Herein, we conducted a large-scale assessment of codon mutations at biallelic sites, spanning more than 5,100 genes, in 2 distinct populations of N. crassa: the Caribbean and Louisiana populations. Based on analysis of the frequency spectra of synonymous codon mutations at biallelic sites, we found that derived (nonancestral) optimal codon mutations segregate at a higher frequency than derived nonoptimal codon mutations in each population; this is consistent with natural selection favoring optimal codons. We also report that optimal codon variants were less frequent in longer genes and that the fixation of optimal codons was reduced in rapidly evolving long genes/proteins, trends suggestive of genetic hitchhiking (Hill-Robertson) altering codon usage variation. Notably, nonsynonymous codon mutations segregated at a lower frequency than synonymous nonoptimal codon mutations (which impair translational efficiency) in each N. crassa population, suggesting that changes in protein composition are more detrimental to fitness than mutations altering translation. Overall, the present data demonstrate that selection, and partly genetic interference, shapes codon variation across the genome in N. crassa populations.

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