Evolution of the mitochondrial genetic code. II. Reassignment of codon AUA from isoleucine to methionine

J Mol Evol. 1989 Nov;29(5):373-80. doi: 10.1007/BF02602907.


The reassignment of codon AUA from isoleucine to methionine during mitochondrial evolution may be explained by the codon reassignment (capture) hypothesis without assuming direct replacement of isoleucine by methionine in mitochondrial proteins. According to this hypothesis, codon AUA would have disappeared from the reading frames of messenger RNA. AUA codons would have mutated mainly to AUU isoleucine codons because of constraints resulting from elimination of tRNA Ile with anticodon *CAU (in which *C is lysidine). Later, tRNA Met (CAU) would have undergone structural changes enabling it to pair with both AUG and AUA. AUA codons, formed by mutations of other codons, including AUG, would have reappeared and would have been translated as methionine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticodon
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Codon*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Echinodermata / genetics
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Genetic Code*
  • Isoleucine / genetics*
  • Methionine / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger*
  • RNA, Transfer, Ile
  • RNA, Transfer, Met


  • Anticodon
  • Codon
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Transfer, Ile
  • RNA, Transfer, Met
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine