Understanding the genetic design principles that determine protein production remains a major challenge. Although the key principles of gene expression were discovered 50 years ago, additional factors are still being uncovered. Both protein-coding and non-coding sequences harbor elements that collectively influence the efficiency of protein production by modulating transcription, mRNA decay, and translation. The influences of many contributing elements are intertwined, which complicates a full understanding of the individual factors. In natural genes, a functional balance between these factors has been obtained in the course of evolution, whereas for genetic-engineering projects, our incomplete understanding still limits optimal design of synthetic genes. However, notable advances have recently been made, supported by high-throughput analysis of synthetic gene libraries as well as by state-of-the-art biomolecular techniques. We discuss here how these advances further strengthen understanding of the gene expression process and how they can be harnessed to optimize protein production.
Keywords: codon usage; heterologous protein production; mRNA stability; transcription; translation.
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