Recent studies have suggested that the thermodynamic stability of mRNA secondary structure near the start codon can regulate translation efficiency in Escherichia coli, and that translation is more efficient the less stable the secondary structure. We survey the complete genomes of 340 species for signals of reduced mRNA secondary structure near the start codon. Our analysis includes bacteria, archaea, fungi, plants, insects, fishes, birds, and mammals. We find that nearly all species show evidence for reduced mRNA stability near the start codon. The reduction in stability generally increases with increasing genomic GC content. In prokaryotes, the reduction also increases with decreasing optimal growth temperature. Within genomes, there is variation in the stability among genes, and this variation correlates with gene GC content, codon bias, and gene expression level. For birds and mammals, however, we do not find a genome-wide trend of reduced mRNA stability near the start codon. Yet the most GC rich genes in these organisms do show such a signal. We conclude that reduced stability of the mRNA secondary structure near the start codon is a universal feature of all cellular life. We suggest that the origin of this reduction is selection for efficient recognition of the start codon by initiator-tRNA.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics