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Trends in Codon and Amino Acid Usage in Thermotoga maritima

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The usage of synonymous codons and the frequencies of amino acids were investigated in the complete genome of the bacterium Thermotoga maritima using a multivariate statistical approach. The GC3 content of each gene was the most prominent source of variation of codon usage. Surprisingly the usage of UGU and UGC (synonymous triplets coding for Cys, the least frequent amino acid in this species) was detected as the second most prominent source of variation. However, this result is probably an artifact due to the very low frequency of Cys together with the nonbiased composition of this genome. The third trend was related to the preferential usage of a subset of codons among highly expressed genes, and these triplets are presumed to be translationally optimal. Concerning the amino acid usage, the hydropathy level of each protein (and therefore the frequency of charged residues) was the main trend, while the second factor was related to the frequency of usage of the smaller residues, suggesting that the cell economy strongly influences the architecture of the proteins. The third axis of the analysis discriminated the usage of Phe, Tyr, Trp (aromatic residues) plus Cys, Met, and His. These six residues have in common the property of being the preferential targets of reactive oxygen species, and therefore the anaerobic condition of T. maritima is an important factor for the amino acid frequencies. Finally, the Cys content of each protein was the fourth trend.

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Received: 22 June 2001 / Accepted: 1 October 2001

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Zavala, A., Naya, H., Romero, H. et al. Trends in Codon and Amino Acid Usage in Thermotoga maritima . J Mol Evol 54, 563–568 (2002).

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