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Selection on synonymous sites: the unwanted transcript hypothesis

Item Type:Review
Title:Selection on synonymous sites: the unwanted transcript hypothesis
Creators Name:Radrizzani, S. and Kudla, G. and Izsvák, Z. and Hurst, L.D.
Abstract:Although translational selection to favour codons that match the most abundant tRNAs is not readily observed in humans, there is nonetheless selection in humans on synonymous mutations. We hypothesize that much of this synonymous site selection can be explained in terms of protection against unwanted RNAs - spurious transcripts, mis-spliced forms or RNAs derived from transposable elements or viruses. We propose not only that selection on synonymous sites functions to reduce the rate of creation of unwanted transcripts (for example, through selection on exonic splice enhancers and cryptic splice sites) but also that high-GC content (but low-CpG content), together with intron presence and position, is both particular to functional native mRNAs and used to recognize transcripts as native. In support of this hypothesis, transcription, nuclear export, liquid phase condensation and RNA degradation have all recently been shown to promote GC-rich transcripts and suppress AU/CpG-rich ones. With such 'traps' being set against AU/CpG-rich transcripts, the codon usage of native genes has, in turn, evolved to avoid such suppression. That parallel filters against AU/CpG-rich transcripts also affect the endosomal import of RNAs further supports the unwanted transcript hypothesis of synonymous site selection and explains the similar design rules that have enabled the successful use of transgenes and RNA vaccines.
Source:Nature Reviews Genetics
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
Date:31 January 2024
Official Publication:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41576-023-00686-7
PubMed:View item in PubMed

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