Old genes experience stronger translational selection than young genes

Gene. 2016 Sep 15;590(1):29-34. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2016.05.041. Epub 2016 May 31.


Selection on synonymous codon usage for translation efficiency and/or accuracy has been identified as a widespread mechanism in many living organisms. However, it remains unknown whether translational selection associates closely with gene age and acts differentially on genes with different evolutionary ages. To address this issue, here we investigate the strength of translational selection acting on different aged genes in human. Our results show that old genes present stronger translational selection than young genes, demonstrating that translational selection correlates positively with gene age. We further explore the difference of translational selection in duplicates vs. singletons and in housekeeping vs. tissue-specific genes. We find that translational selection acts comparably in old singletons and old duplicates and stronger translational selection in old genes is contributed primarily by housekeeping genes. For young genes, contrastingly, singletons experience stronger translational selection than duplicates, presumably due to redundant function of duplicated genes during their early evolutionary stage. Taken together, our results indicate that translational selection acting on a gene would not be constant during all stages of evolution, associating closely with gene age.

Keywords: Codon usage bias; Duplicate; Gene age; Housekeeping gene; Singleton; Translational selection.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Codon
  • Genes, Duplicate*
  • Genes, Essential
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Organ Specificity
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Time Factors


  • Codon