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Selective transcription of individual protein coding genes does not occur in trypanosomes and the cellular copy number of each mRNA must be determined post-transcriptionally. Here, we provide evidence that codon choice directs the levels of constitutively expressed mRNAs. First, a novel codon usage metric, the gene expression codon adaptation index (geCAI), was developed that maximised the relationship between codon choice and the measured abundance for a transcriptome. Second, geCAI predictions of mRNA levels were tested using differently coded GFP transgenes and were successful over a 25-fold range, similar to the variation in endogenous mRNAs. Third, translation was necessary for the accelerated mRNA turnover resulting from codon choice. Thus, in trypanosomes, the information determining the levels of most mRNAs resides in the open reading frame and translation is required to access this information.

Original publication

DOI

10.7554/eLife.32467

Type

Journal article

Journal

Elife

Publication Date

15/03/2018

Volume

7

Keywords

Trypanosome brucei, chromosomes, codon choice, genes, infectious disease, mRNA expression, microbiology, trypanosome