Speed Controls in Translating Secretory Proteins in Eukaryotes - an Evolutionary Perspective

Shelly Mahlab, Michal Linial*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Protein translation is the most expensive operation in dividing cells from bacteria to humans. Therefore, managing the speed and allocation of resources is subject to tight control. From bacteria to humans, clusters of relatively rare tRNA codons at the N′-terminal of mRNAs have been implicated in attenuating the process of ribosome allocation, and consequently the translation rate in a broad range of organisms. The current interpretation of "slow" tRNA codons does not distinguish between protein translations mediated by free- or endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-bound ribosomes. We demonstrate that proteins translated by free- or ER-bound ribosomes exhibit different overall properties in terms of their translation efficiency and speed in yeast, fly, plant, worm, bovine and human. We note that only secreted or membranous proteins with a Signal peptide (SP) are specified by segments of "slow" tRNA at the N′-terminal, followed by abundant codons that are considered "fast." Such profiles apply to 3100 proteins of the human proteome that are composed of secreted and signal peptide (SP)-assisted membranous proteins. Remarkably, the bulks of the proteins (12,000), or membranous proteins lacking SP (3400), do not have such a pattern. Alternation of "fast" and "slow" codons was found also in proteins that translocate to mitochondria through transit peptides (TP). The differential clusters of tRNA adapted codons is not restricted to the N′-terminal of transcripts. Specifically, Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins are unified by clusters of low adapted tRNAs codons at the C′-termini. Furthermore, selection of amino acids types and specific codons was shown as the driving force which establishes the translation demands for the secretory proteome. We postulate that "hard-coded" signals within the secretory proteome assist the steps of protein maturation and folding. Specifically, "speed control" signals for delaying the translation of a nascent protein fulfill the co- and post-translational stages such as membrane translocation, proteins processing and folding.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere1003294
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


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