Optimizing heterologous expression in dictyostelium: importance of 5' codon adaptation

Nucleic Acids Res. 2000 May 15;28(10):2069-74. doi: 10.1093/nar/28.10.2069.


Expression of heterologous proteins in Dictyostelium discoideum presents unique research opportunities, such as the functional analysis of complex human glycoproteins after random mutagenesis. In one study, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and human follicle stimulating hormone were expressed in Dictyostelium. During the course of these experiments, we also investigated the role of codon usage and of the DNA sequence upstream of the ATG start codon. The Dictyostelium genome has a higher AT content than the human, resulting in a different codon preference. The hCG-beta gene contains three clusters with infrequently used codons that were changed to codons that are preferred by Dictyostelium. The results reported here show that optimizing the first 5-17 codons of the hCG gene contributes to 4- to 5-fold increased expression levels, but that further optimization has no significant effect. These observations suggest that optimal codon usage contributes to ribosome stabilization, but does not play an important role during the elongation phase of translation. Furthermore, adapting the 5'-sequence of the hCG gene to the Dictyostelium 'Kozak'-like sequence increased expression levels approximately 1.5-fold. Thus, using both codon optimization and 'Kozak' adaptation, a 6- to 8-fold increase in expression levels could be obtained for hCG.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / biosynthesis
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / genetics*
  • Codon / genetics
  • Dictyostelium / genetics*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / biosynthesis
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / genetics*
  • Genetic Techniques
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptide Chain Elongation, Translational
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Ribosomes / metabolism


  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human
  • Codon
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone