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Codon usage bias in Drosophila melanogaster genes has been attributed to negative selection of those codons whose cellular tRNA abundance restricts rates of mRNA translation. Previous studies, which involved limited numbers of genes, can now be compared against analyses of the entire gene complements of 12 Drosophila species whose genome sequences have become available. Using large numbers (6138) of orthologs represented in all 12 species, we establish that the codon preferences of more closely related species are better correlated. Differences between codon usage biases are attributed, in part, to changes in mutational biases. These biases are apparent from the strong correlation (r = 0.92, P < 0.001) among these genomes' intronic G + C contents and exonic G + C contents at degenerate third codon positions. To perform a cross-species comparison of selection on codon usage, while accounting for changes in mutational biases, we calibrated each genome in turn using the codon usage bias indices of highly expressed ribosomal protein genes. The strength of translational selection was predicted to have varied between species largely according to their phylogeny, with the D. melanogaster group species exhibiting the strongest degree of selection.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1337 - 1348


Animals, Base Composition, Codon, DNA, Drosophila, Drosophila Proteins, Drosophila melanogaster, Evolution, Molecular, Genome, Insect, Introns, Mutation, Phylogeny, Protein Biosynthesis, Ribosomal Proteins, Selection, Genetic, Species Specificity