, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 75-85

Error-reducing Structure of the Genetic Code Indicates Code Origin in Non-thermophile Organisms

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Abstract

During the RNA World, organisms experienced high rates of genetic errors, which implies that there was strong evolutionary pressure to reduce the errors’ phenotypical impact by suitably structuring the still-evolving genetic code. Therefore, the relative rates of the various types of genetic errors should have left characteristic imprints in the structure of the genetic code. Here, we show that, therefore, it is possible to some extent to reconstruct those error rates, as well as the nucleotide frequencies, for the time when the code was fixed. We find evidence indicating that the frequencies of G and C in the genome were not elevated. Since, for thermodynamic reasons, RNA in thermophiles tends to possess elevated G+C content, this result indicates that the fixation of the genetic code occurred in organisms which were either not thermophiles or that the code’s fixation occurred after the rise of DNA.

Supplementary Materials Original data and programs are available at the author’s web site: http://www.math.uwaterloo.ca/~akempf/gc/.