Synonymous codon usage variation among Giardia lamblia genes and isolates

B Lafay*, PM Sharp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The pattern of codon usage in the amitochondriate diplomonad Giardia lamblia has been investigated. Very extensive heterogeneity was evident among a sample of 65 genes. A discrete group of genes featured unusual codon usage due to the amino acid composition of their products: these variant surface proteins (VSPs) are unusually rich in Cys and, to a lesser extent, Gly and Thr. Among the remaining 50 genes, correspondence analysis revealed a single major source of variation in synonymous codon usage. This trend was related to the extent of use of a particular subset of 21 codons which are inferred to be those which are optimal for translation; at one end of this trend were genes expected to be expressed at low levels with near random codon usage, while at the other extreme were genes expressed at high levels in which these optimal codons are used almost exclusively. These optimal codons all end in C or G, so G+C content at silent sites varies enormously among genes, from values around 40%, expected to reflect the background level of the genome, up to nearly 100%. Although VSP genes are occasionally extremely highly expressed, they do not, in general, have high frequencies of optimal codons, presumably because their high expression is only intermittent. These results indicate that natural selection has been very effective in shaping codon usage in G. lamblia. These analyses focused on sequences from strains placed within G, lamblia "assemblage A"; a few sequences from other strains revealed extensive divergence at silent sites, including some divergence in the pattern of codon usage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1484-1495
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1999

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • variation
  • Giardia lamblia
  • translational selection
  • GC3(s)
  • intraspecies heterogeneity
  • codon usage
  • diplomonads


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