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1.  Relative Contributions of Intrinsic Structural–Functional Constraints and Translation Rate to the Evolution of Protein-Coding Genes 
A long-standing assumption in evolutionary biology is that the evolution rate of protein-coding genes depends, largely, on specific constraints that affect the function of the given protein. However, recent research in evolutionary systems biology revealed unexpected, significant correlations between evolution rate and characteristics of genes or proteins that are not directly related to specific protein functions, such as expression level and protein–protein interactions. The strongest connections were consistently detected between protein sequence evolution rate and the expression level of the respective gene. A recent genome-wide proteomic study revealed an extremely strong correlation between the abundances of orthologous proteins in distantly related animals, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. We used the extensive protein abundance data from this study along with short-term evolutionary rates (ERs) of orthologous genes in nematodes and flies to estimate the relative contributions of structural–functional constraints and the translation rate to the evolution rate of protein-coding genes. Together the intrinsic constraints and translation rate account for approximately 50% of the variance of the ERs. The contribution of constraints is estimated to be 3- to 5-fold greater than the contribution of translation rate.
PMCID: PMC2940324  PMID: 20624725
protein evolution; structural–functional constraints; misfolding; protein abundance
2.  Selection for minimization of translational frameshifting errors as a factor in the evolution of codon usage 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(20):6799-6810.
In a wide range of genomes, it was observed that the usage of synonymous codons is biased toward specific codons and codon patterns. Factors that are implicated in the selection for codon usage include facilitation of fast and accurate translation. There are two types of translational errors: missense errors and processivity errors. There is considerable evidence in support of the hypothesis that codon usage is optimized to minimize missense errors. In contrast, little is known about the relationship between codon usage and frameshifting errors, an important form of processivity errors, which appear to occur at frequencies comparable to the frequencies of missense errors. Based on the recently proposed pause-and-slip model of frameshifting, we developed Frameshifting Robustness Score (FRS). We used this measure to test if the pattern of codon usage indicates optimization against frameshifting errors. We found that the FRS values of protein-coding sequences from four analyzed genomes (the bacteria Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli, and the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyce pombe) were typically higher than expected by chance. Other properties of FRS patterns observed in B. subtilis, S. cerevisiae and S. pombe, such as the tendency of FRS to increase from the 5′- to 3′-end of protein-coding sequences, were also consistent with the hypothesis of optimization against frameshifting errors in translation. For E. coli, the results of different tests were less consistent, suggestive of a much weaker optimization, if any. Collectively, the results fit the concept of selection against mistranslation-induced protein misfolding being one of the factors shaping the evolution of both coding and non-coding sequences.
PMCID: PMC2777431  PMID: 19745054
3.  Comparative analysis of orthologous eukaryotic mRNAs: potential hidden functional signals 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(5):1774-1782.
Sequencing of multiple, nearly complete eukaryotic genomes creates opportunities for detecting previously unnoticed, subtle functional signals in non-coding regions. A genome-wide comparative analysis of orthologous sets of mammalian and yeast mRNAs revealed distinct patterns of evolutionary conservation at the boundaries of the untranslated regions (UTRs) and the coding region (CDS). Elevated sequence conservation was detected in ∼30 nt regions around the start codon. There seems to be a complementary relationship between sequence conservation in the ∼30 nt regions of the 5′-UTR immediately upstream of the start codon and that in the synonymous positions of the 5′-terminal 30 nt of the CDS: in mammalian mRNAs, the 5′-UTR shows a greater conservation than the CDS, whereas the opposite trend holds for yeast mRNAs. Unexpectedly, a ∼30 nt region downstream of the stop codon shows a substantially lower level of sequence conservation than the downstream portions of the 3′-UTRs. However, the sequence in this poorly conserved 30 nt portion of the 3′-UTR is non-random in that it has a higher GC content than the rest of the UTR. It is hypothesized that the elevated sequence conservation in the region immediately upstream of the start codon is related to the requirement for initiation factor binding during pre-initiation ribosomal scanning. In contrast, the poorly conserved region downstream of the stop codon could be involved in the post- termination scanning and dissociation of the ribosomes from the mRNA, which requires only the mRNA–ribosome interaction. Additionally, it was found that the choice of the stop codon in mammals, but not in yeasts, and the context in the immediate vicinity of the stop codons in both mammals and yeasts are subject to strong selection. Thus, genome-wide analysis of orthologous gene sets allows detection of previously unrecognized patterns of sequence conservation, which are likely to reflect hidden functional signals, such as ribosomal filters that could regulate translation by modulating the interaction between the mRNA and ribosomes.
PMCID: PMC390323  PMID: 15031317

Results 1-3 (3)