Determinants of translation elongation speed and ribosomal profiling biases in mouse embryonic stem cells

PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(11):e1002755. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002755. Epub 2012 Nov 1.


Ribosomal profiling is a promising approach with increasing popularity for studying translation. This approach enables monitoring the ribosomal density along genes at a resolution of single nucleotides.In this study, we focused on ribosomal density profiles of mouse embryonic stem cells. Our analysis suggests, for the first time, that even in mammals such as M. musculus the elongation speed is significantly and directly affected by determinants of the coding sequence such as: 1) the adaptation of codons to the tRNA pool; 2) the local mRNA folding of the coding sequence; 3) the local charge of amino acids encoded in the codon sequence. In addition, our analyses suggest that in general, the translation velocity of ribosomes is slower at the beginning of the coding sequence and tends to increase downstream.Finally, a comparison of these data to the expected biophysical behavior of translation suggests that it suffers from some unknown biases. Specifically, the ribosomal flux measured on the experimental data increases along the coding sequence; however, according to any biophysical model of ribosomal movement lacking internal initiation sites, the flux is expected to remain constant or decrease. Thus, developing experimental and/or statistical methods for understanding, detecting and dealing with such biases is of high importance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / genetics
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Codon / genetics
  • Codon / metabolism
  • Computer Simulation
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Nucleotides / genetics
  • Nucleotides / metabolism
  • Peptide Chain Elongation, Translational / genetics
  • Peptide Chain Elongation, Translational / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism
  • Ribosomes / chemistry
  • Ribosomes / genetics
  • Ribosomes / physiology*
  • Thermodynamics


  • Amino Acids
  • Codon
  • Nucleotides
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Transfer

Grant support

The study was supported by TAU. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.