Bacteriophages use an expanded genetic code on evolutionary paths to higher fitness

Nat Chem Biol. 2014 Mar;10(3):178-80. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.1450. Epub 2014 Feb 2.


Bioengineering advances have made it possible to fundamentally alter the genetic codes of organisms. However, the evolutionary consequences of expanding an organism's genetic code with a noncanonical amino acid are poorly understood. Here we show that bacteriophages evolved on a host that incorporates 3-iodotyrosine at the amber stop codon acquire neutral and beneficial mutations to this new amino acid in their proteins, demonstrating that an expanded genetic code increases evolvability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / genetics
  • Bacteriophages / genetics*
  • Codon, Terminator
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Monoiodotyrosine / genetics*


  • 3-iodotyrosine
  • Amino Acids
  • Codon, Terminator
  • Monoiodotyrosine

Associated data

  • SRA/SRP021199