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Cell Biol Int. 1999;23(8):551-60.

Cloning and characterization of the gene encoding the highly expressed ribosomal protein l3 of the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila. Evidence for differential codon usage in highly expressed genes.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Odense University, Campusvej 55, Odense M, DK-5260, Denmark.


We have cloned and characterized the cDNA and the macronuclear genomic copy of the highly conserved ribosomal protein (r-protein) L3 of Tetrahymena thermophila. The r-protein L3 is encoded by a single copy gene interrupted by one intron. The organization of the promoter region exhibits features characteristic of ribosomal protein genes in Tetrahymena. The codon usage of the L3 gene is highly biased. A thorough analysis of codon usage in Tetrahymena genes revealed that genes could be categorized into two classes according to codon usage bias. Class A comprises r-protein genes and a number of other highly expressed genes. Class B comprises weakly expressed genes such as the conjugation induced CnjB and CnjC genes, but surprisingly, this class also contains abundantly expressed genes such as the genes encoding the surface antigens SerH3 and SerH1. Codon usage is slightly more restricted in class A than in class B, but both classes exhibit distinct and different codon usage biases. Class A genes preferentially use C and U in the silent third codon positions, whereas class B genes preferentially use A and U in the silent third codon positions. The analysis suggests that two different strategies have been employed for optimization of codon usage in the A+T-rich genome of Tetrahymena.

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