It is widely believed that if a high number of genes are found for any tRNA in a rapidly replicating bacteria, then the cytoplasmic levels of that tRNA will be high and an open reading frame containing a higher frequency of the complementary codon will be translated faster. This idea is based on correlations between the number of tRNA genes, tRNA concentration and the frequency of codon usage observed in a limited number of strains as well as from the fact that artificially changing the number of tRNA genes alters translation efficiency and consequently the amount of properly folded protein synthesized. tRNA gene number may greatly vary in a genome due to duplications, deletions and lateral transfer which in turn would alter the levels and functionality of many proteins. Such changes are potentially deleterious for fitness and as a result it is expected that changes in tRNA gene numbers should be accompanied by a modification of the frequency of codon usage. In contrast to this model, when comparing the number of tRNA genes and the frequency of codon usage of several Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli strains we found that changes in the number of tRNA genes are not correlated to changes in codon usage. Furthermore, these changes are not correlated with a change in the efficiency of codon translation. These results suggest that once a genome gains or loses tRNA genes, it responds by modulating the concentrations of tRNAs rather than modifying its frequency of codon usage.
Rojas, J., Castillo, G., Leiva, L.E., Elgamal, S., Orellana, O., Ibba, M. and Katz, A. (2018) Codon usage revisited: Lack of correlation between codon usage and the number of tRNA genes in enterobacteria. Bioch. Biophys. Res. Comm. 502, 450-455. https://doi.org10.1016/j.bbrc.2018.05.168
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