Differential effect of amino acid residues on the stability of double helices formed from polyribonucleotides and its possible relation to the evolution of the genetic code
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The interaction of amino acid residues with polyribonucleotides was characterized by measurements of melting temperatures (tm) for poly(A) poly(U) and poly(I)poly(C) as functions of the concentrations of various amino acid amides. The amides of hydrophilic amino acids lead to a continuous increase of tm with increasing concentration, whereas amides of hydrophobic amino acids induce a decrease of tm at low concentrations (≈1 mM) followed by an increase at higher concentrations. Analysis of the data by a simple site model provides the affinity of each ligand for the double helix relative to that for the single strands. This parameter decreases in the order Ala>Gly>Ser>Asn>Pro>Met, Val>Ile, Leu for poly(A) poly(U) and Ala, Gly, Ser>Asn>Pro>Val>Ile, Met, Leu for poly(I)poly(C). The special effects of hydrophobic amino acids may be related to the similarity of the codons for these amino acids. A simple model for assignment of codons to amino acids is proposed.
Key wordsGenetic code Amino acids Polyribonucleotides helix-coil transition Site model Hydrophobicity
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