Codon and Amino Acid Usage Are Shaped by Selection Across Divergent Model Organisms of the Pancrustacea

G3 (Bethesda). 2015 Sep 17;5(11):2307-21. doi: 10.1534/g3.115.021402.


In protein-coding genes, synonymous codon usage and amino acid composition correlate to expression in some eukaryotes, and may result from translational selection. Here, we studied large-scale RNA-seq data from three divergent arthropod models, including cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus), milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus), and the amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis, and tested for optimization of codon and amino acid usage relative to expression level. We report strong signals of AT3 optimal codons (those favored in highly expressed genes) in G. bimaculatus and O. fasciatus, whereas weaker signs of GC3 optimal codons were found in P. hawaiensis, suggesting selection on codon usage in all three organisms. Further, in G. bimaculatus and O. fasciatus, high expression was associated with lowered frequency of amino acids with large size/complexity (S/C) scores in favor of those with intermediate S/C values; thus, selection may favor smaller amino acids while retaining those of moderate size for protein stability or conformation. In P. hawaiensis, highly transcribed genes had elevated frequency of amino acids with large and small S/C scores, suggesting a complex dynamic in this crustacean. In all species, the highly transcribed genes appeared to favor short proteins, high optimal codon usage, specific amino acids, and were preferentially involved in cell-cycling and protein synthesis. Together, based on examination of 1,680,067, 1,667,783, and 1,326,896 codon sites in G. bimaculatus, O. fasciatus, and P. hawaiensis, respectively, we conclude that translational selection shapes codon and amino acid usage in these three Pancrustacean arthropods.

Keywords: Gryllus bimaculatus; Oncopeltus fasciatus; Parhyale hawaiensis; optimal codons; translational selection.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / genetics
  • Animals
  • Arthropod Proteins / genetics
  • Arthropods / genetics*
  • Codon / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Selection, Genetic*


  • Amino Acids
  • Arthropod Proteins
  • Codon