The 3-base periodicity and codon usage of coding sequences are correlated with gene expression at the level of transcription elongation

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Abstract

Background: Gene transcription is regulated by DNA transcriptional regulatory elements, promoters and enhancers that are located outside the coding regions. Here, we examine the characteristic 3-base periodicity of the coding sequences and analyse its correlation with the genome-wide transcriptional profile of yeast. Principal Findings: The analysis of coding sequences by a new class of indices proposed here identified two different sources of 3-base periodicity: the codon frequency and the codon sequence. In exponentially growing yeast cells, the codon-frequency component of periodicity accounts for 71.9% of the variability of the cellular mRNA by a strong association with the density of elongating mRNA polymerase II complexes. The mRNA abundance explains most of the correlation between the codon-frequency component of periodicity and protein levels. Furthermore, pyrimidine-ending codons of the four-fold degenerate small amino acids alanine, glycine and valine are associated with genes with double the transcription rate of those associated with purine-ending codons. Conclusions: We demonstrate that the 3-base periodicity of coding sequences is higher than expected by the codon usage frequency (CUF) and that its components, associated with codon bias and amino acid composition, are correlated with gene expression, principally at the level of transcription elongation. This indicates a role of codon sequences in maximising the transcription efficiency in exponentially growing yeast cells. Moreover, the results contrast with the common Darwinian explanation that attributes the codon bias to translational selection by an adjustment of synonymous codon frequencies to the most abundant isoaccepting tRNA. Here, we show that selection on codon bias likely acts at both the transcriptional and translational level and that codon usage and the relative abundance of tRNA could drive each other in order to synergistically optimize the efficiency of gene expression. © 2011 Edoardo Trotta.

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Trotta, E. (2011). The 3-base periodicity and codon usage of coding sequences are correlated with gene expression at the level of transcription elongation. PLoS ONE, 6(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0021590

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