Stops making sense: translational trade-offs and stop codon reassignment

Journal Article: BMC Evolutionary BiologyYear Published: (2011) Volume Number: 11, Article Number: 227


Johnson,LJ; Cotton,JA; Lichtenstein,CP; Elgar,GS; Nichols,RA; Polly,PD; Le Comber,SC

Efficient gene expression involves a trade-off between (i) premature termination of protein synthesis; and (ii) readthrough, where the ribosome fails to dissociate at the terminal stop. Sense codons that are similar in sequence to stop codons are more susceptible to nonsense mutation, and are also likely to be more susceptible to transcriptional or translational errors causing premature termination. We therefore expect this trade-off to be influenced by the number of stop codons in the genetic code. Although genetic codes are highly constrained, stop codon number appears to be their most volatile feature.