Does the genetic code have a eukaryotic origin?

Genomics Proteomics Bioinformatics. 2013 Feb;11(1):41-55. doi: 10.1016/j.gpb.2013.01.001. Epub 2013 Jan 20.


In the RNA world, RNA is assumed to be the dominant macromolecule performing most, if not all, core "house-keeping" functions. The ribo-cell hypothesis suggests that the genetic code and the translation machinery may both be born of the RNA world, and the introduction of DNA to ribo-cells may take over the informational role of RNA gradually, such as a mature set of genetic code and mechanism enabling stable inheritance of sequence and its variation. In this context, we modeled the genetic code in two content variables-GC and purine contents-of protein-coding sequences and measured the purine content sensitivities for each codon when the sensitivity (% usage) is plotted as a function of GC content variation. The analysis leads to a new pattern-the symmetric pattern-where the sensitivity of purine content variation shows diagonally symmetry in the codon table more significantly in the two GC content invariable quarters in addition to the two existing patterns where the table is divided into either four GC content sensitivity quarters or two amino acid diversity halves. The most insensitive codon sets are GUN (valine) and CAN (CAR for asparagine and CAY for aspartic acid) and the most biased amino acid is valine (always over-estimated) followed by alanine (always under-estimated). The unique position of valine and its codons suggests its key roles in the final recruitment of the complete codon set of the canonical table. The distinct choice may only be attributable to sequence signatures or signals of splice sites for spliceosomal introns shared by all extant eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / genetics*
  • Base Composition
  • Codon
  • DNA / genetics
  • Eukaryota
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Code*
  • Introns
  • Purines / chemistry
  • RNA / genetics*
  • RNA Splice Sites
  • RNA Splicing
  • Valine / genetics


  • Amino Acids
  • Codon
  • Purines
  • RNA Splice Sites
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • Valine