Coevolution theory of the genetic code at age thirty

Bioessays. 2005 Apr;27(4):416-25. doi: 10.1002/bies.20208.


The coevolution theory of the genetic code, which postulates that prebiotic synthesis was an inadequate source of all twenty protein amino acids, and therefore some of them had to be derived from the coevolving pathways of amino acid biosynthesis, has been assessed in the light of the discoveries of the past three decades. Its four fundamental tenets regarding the essentiality of amino acid biosynthesis, role of pretran synthesis, biosynthetic imprint on codon allocations and mutability of the encoded amino acids are proven by the new knowledge. Of the factors that guided the evolutionary selection of the universal code, the relative contributions of Amino Acid Biosynthesis: Error Minimization: Stereochemical Interaction are estimated to first approximation as 40,000,000:400:1, which suggests that amino acid biosynthesis represents the dominant factor shaping the code. The utility of the coevolution theory is demonstrated by its opening up experimental expansions of the code and providing a basis for locating the root of life.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / biosynthesis
  • Amino Acids / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Code*
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Origin of Life*
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Transfer / classification
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics


  • Amino Acids
  • RNA, Transfer