With synthetic gene services, molecular cloning is as easy as ordering a pizza. However choosing the right RNA code for efficient protein production is less straightforward, more akin to deciding on the pizza toppings. The possibility to choose synonymous codons in the gene sequence has ignited a discussion that dates back 50 years: Does synonymous codon use matter? Recent studies indicate that replacement of particular codons for synonymous codons can improve expression in homologous or heterologous hosts, however it is not always successful. Furthermore it is increasingly apparent that membrane protein biogenesis can be codon-sensitive. Single synonymous codon substitutions can influence mRNA stability, mRNA structure, translational initiation, translational elongation and even protein folding. Synonymous codon substitutions therefore need to be carefully evaluated when membrane proteins are engineered for higher production levels and further studies are needed to fully understand how to select the codons that are optimal for higher production. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Protein Folding in Membranes.
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