Dissimilation of synonymous codon usage bias in virus–host coevolution due to translational selection

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Abstract

Eighteen of the 20 amino acids are each encoded by more than one synonymous codon. Due to differential transfer RNA supply within the cell, synonymous codons are not used with equal frequency, a phenomenon termed codon usage bias (CUB). Previous studies have demonstrated that CUB of endogenous genes trans-regulates the translational efficiency of other genes. We hypothesized similar effects for CUB of exogenous genes on host translation, and tested it in the case of viral infection, a common form of naturally occurring exogenous gene translation. We analysed public Ribo-Seq datasets from virus-infected yeast and human cells and showed that virus CUB trans-regulated tRNA availability, and therefore the relative decoding time of codons. Manipulative experiments in yeast using 37 synonymous fluorescent proteins confirmed that an exogenous gene with CUB more similar to that of the host would apply decreased translational load on the host per unit of expression, whereas expression of the exogenous gene was elevated. The combination of these two effects was that exogenous genes with CUB overly similar to that of the host severely impeded host translation. Finally, using a manually curated list of viruses and natural and symptomatic hosts, we found that virus CUB tended to be more similar to that of symptomatic hosts than that of natural hosts, supporting a general deleterious effect of excessive CUB similarity between virus and host. Our work revealed repulsion between virus and host CUBs when they are overly similar, a previously unrecognized complexity in the coevolution of virus and host.

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Chen, F., Wu, P., Deng, S., Zhang, H., Hou, Y., Hu, Z., … Yang, J. R. (2020). Dissimilation of synonymous codon usage bias in virus–host coevolution due to translational selection. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 4(4), 589–600. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1124-7

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