Endogenous Stochastic Decoding of the CUG Codon by Competing Ser- and Leu-tRNAs in Ascoidea asiatica

Curr Biol. 2018 Jul 9;28(13):2046-2057.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.04.085. Epub 2018 Jun 18.


Although the "universal" genetic code is now known not to be universal, and stop codons can have multiple meanings, one regularity remains, namely that for a given sense codon there is a unique translation. Examining CUG usage in yeasts that have transferred CUG away from leucine, we here report the first example of dual coding: Ascoidea asiatica stochastically encodes CUG as both serine and leucine in approximately equal proportions. This is deleterious, as evidenced by CUG codons being rare, never at conserved serine or leucine residues, and predominantly in lowly expressed genes. Related yeasts solve the problem by loss of function of one of the two tRNAs. This dual coding is consistent with the tRNA-loss-driven codon reassignment hypothesis, and provides a unique example of a proteome that cannot be deterministically predicted. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Keywords: Ascoidea asiatica; CUG codon; Saccharomycopsis; codon reassignment; competing tRNAs; genetic code; proteomics; stochastic decoding; yeast evolution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Codon, Terminator / metabolism*
  • RNA, Transfer, Leu / genetics*
  • RNA, Transfer, Leu / metabolism
  • RNA, Transfer, Ser / genetics*
  • RNA, Transfer, Ser / metabolism
  • Saccharomycetales / genetics*
  • Saccharomycetales / metabolism


  • Codon, Terminator
  • RNA, Transfer, Leu
  • RNA, Transfer, Ser