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      Gender-specific selection on codon usage in plant genomes

      , 1 , 1 , 1

      BMC Genomics

      BioMed Central

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          Currently, there is little data available regarding the role of gender-specific gene expression on synonymous codon usage (translational selection) in most organisms, and particularly plants. Using gender-specific EST libraries (with > 4000 ESTs) from Zea mays and Triticum aestivum, we assessed whether gender-specific gene expression per se and gender-specific gene expression level are associated with selection on codon usage.


          We found clear evidence of a greater bias in codon usage for genes expressed in female than in male organs and gametes, based on the variation in GC content at third codon positions and the frequency of species-preferred codons. This finding holds true for both highly and for lowly expressed genes. In addition, we found that highly expressed genes have greater codon bias than lowly expressed genes for both female- and male-specific genes. Moreover, in both species, genes with female-specific expression show a greater usage of species-specific preferred codons for each of the 18 amino acids having synonymous codons. A supplemental analysis of Brassica napus suggests that bias in codon usage could also be higher in genes expressed in male gametophytic tissues than in heterogeneous (flower) tissues.


          This study reports gender-specific bias in codon usage in plants. The findings reported here, based on the analysis of 1 497 876 codons, are not caused either by differences in the biological functions of the genes or by differences in protein lengths, nor are they likely attributable to mutational bias. The data are best explained by gender-specific translational selection. Plausible explanations for these findings and the relevance to these and other organisms are discussed.

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          Most cited references 55

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          The codon Adaptation Index--a measure of directional synonymous codon usage bias, and its potential applications.

           Mindy Li,  P. Sharp (1987)
          A simple, effective measure of synonymous codon usage bias, the Codon Adaptation Index, is detailed. The index uses a reference set of highly expressed genes from a species to assess the relative merits of each codon, and a score for a gene is calculated from the frequency of use of all codons in that gene. The index assesses the extent to which selection has been effective in moulding the pattern of codon usage. In that respect it is useful for predicting the level of expression of a gene, for assessing the adaptation of viral genes to their hosts, and for making comparisons of codon usage in different organisms. The index may also give an approximate indication of the likely success of heterologous gene expression.
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            The 'effective number of codons' used in a gene.

             Elaine Wright (1990)
            A simple measure is presented that quantifies how far the codon usage of a gene departs from equal usage of synonymous codons. This measure of synonymous codon usage bias, the 'effective number of codons used in a gene', Nc, can be easily calculated from codon usage data alone, and is independent of gene length and amino acid (aa) composition. Nc can take values from 20, in the case of extreme bias where one codon is exclusively used for each aa, to 61 when the use of alternative synonymous codons is equally likely. Nc thus provides an intuitively meaningful measure of the extent of codon preference in a gene. Codon usage patterns across genes can be investigated by the Nc-plot: a plot of Nc vs. G + C content at synonymous sites. Nc-plots are produced for Homo sapiens, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Dictyostelium discoideum, and Drosophila melanogaster. A FORTRAN77 program written to calculate Nc is available on request.
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              Codon usage and tRNA content in unicellular and multicellular organisms.

               T Ikemura (1984)
              Choices of synonymous codons in unicellular organisms are here reviewed, and differences in synonymous codon usages between Escherichia coli and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae are attributed to differences in the actual populations of isoaccepting tRNAs. There exists a strong positive correlation between codon usage and tRNA content in both organisms, and the extent of this correlation relates to the protein production levels of individual genes. Codon-choice patterns are believed to have been well conserved during the course of evolution. Examination of silent substitutions and tRNA populations in Enterobacteriaceae revealed that the evolutionary constraint imposed by tRNA content on codon usage decelerated rather than accelerated the silent-substitution rate, at least insofar as pairs of taxonomically related organisms were examined. Codon-choice patterns of multicellular organisms are briefly reviewed, and diversity in G+C percentage at the third position of codons in vertebrate genes--as well as a possible causative factor in the production of this diversity--is discussed.

                Author and article information

                BMC Genomics
                BMC Genomics
                BioMed Central (London )
                13 June 2007
                : 8
                : 169
                [1 ]Plant Biotechnology Institute, National Research Council of Canada, 110 Gymnasium Place, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 0W9, Canada
                Copyright © 2007 Whittle et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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