Selection intensity on preferred codons correlates with overall codon usage bias in Caenorhabditis remanei

Curr Biol. 2006 Oct 24;16(20):2053-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.08.067.


Adaptive codon usage provides evidence of natural selection in one of its most subtle forms: a fitness benefit of one synonymous codon relative to another. Codon usage bias is evident in the coding sequences of a broad array of taxa, reflecting selection for translational efficiency and/or accuracy as well as mutational biases. Here, we quantify the magnitude of selection acting on alternative codons in genes of the nematode Caenorhabditis remanei, an outcrossing relative of the model organism C. elegans, by fitting the expected mutation-selection-drift equilibrium frequency distribution of preferred and unpreferred codon variants to the empirical distribution. This method estimates the intensity of selection on synonymous codons in genes with high codon bias as N(e)s = 0.17, a value significantly greater than zero. In addition, we demonstrate for the first time that estimates of ongoing selection on codon usage among genes, inferred from nucleotide polymorphism data, correlate strongly with long-term patterns of codon usage bias, as measured by the frequency of optimal codons in a gene. From the pattern of polymorphisms in introns, we also infer that these findings do not result from the operation of biased gene conversion toward G or C nucleotides. We therefore conclude that coincident patterns of current and ancient selection are responsible for shaping biased codon usage in the C. remanei genome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Composition
  • Caenorhabditis / genetics*
  • Codon / genetics*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Models, Genetic
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Selection, Genetic*


  • Codon