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During mRNA decoding at the ribosome, deviations from stringent codon identity, or “mistranslation,” are generally deleterious and infrequent. Observations of organisms that decode some codons ambiguously, and the discovery of a compensatory increase in mistranslation frequency to combat environmental stress have changed the way we view “errors” in decoding. Modern tools for the study of the frequency and phenotypic effects of mistranslation can provide quantitative and sensitive measurements of decoding errors that were previously inaccessible. Mistranslation with non‐protein amino acids, in particular, is an enticing prospect for new drug therapies and the study of molecular evolution.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in FEBS Letters, volume 588, in 2014 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at


Federation of European Biochemical Societies



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