Codon Bias as a Means to Fine-Tune Gene Expression

Mol Cell. 2015 Jul 16;59(2):149-61. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2015.05.035.


The redundancy of the genetic code implies that most amino acids are encoded by multiple synonymous codons. In all domains of life, a biased frequency of synonymous codons is observed at the genome level, in functionally related genes (e.g., in operons), and within single genes. Other codon bias variants include biased codon pairs and codon co-occurrence. Although translation initiation is the key step in protein synthesis, it is generally accepted that codon bias contributes to translation efficiency by tuning the elongation rate of the process. Moreover, codon bias plays an important role in controlling a multitude of cellular processes, ranging from differential protein production to protein folding. Here we review currently known types of codon bias and how they may influence translation. We discuss how understanding the principles of codon bias and translation can contribute to improved protein production and developments in synthetic biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Codon / genetics*
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genes, Synthetic
  • Genetic Code
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Operon
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Protein Folding
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic


  • Codon
  • RNA, Transfer