Rewiring the keyboard: evolvability of the genetic code

Nat Rev Genet. 2001 Jan;2(1):49-58. doi: 10.1038/35047500.


The genetic code evolved in two distinct phases. First, the 'canonical' code emerged before the last universal ancestor; subsequently, this code diverged in numerous nuclear and organelle lineages. Here, we examine the distribution and causes of these secondary deviations from the canonical genetic code. The majority of non-standard codes arise from alterations in the tRNA, with most occurring by post-transcriptional modifications, such as base modification or RNA editing, rather than by substitutions within tRNA anticodons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Code*
  • Mutation
  • Phylogeny*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics*
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism


  • RNA, Transfer