Inferring translational heterogeneity from Saccharomyces cerevisiae ribosome profiling

FEBS J. 2021 Aug;288(15):4541-4559. doi: 10.1111/febs.15748. Epub 2021 Feb 22.


Translation of mRNAs into proteins by the ribosome is the most important step of protein biosynthesis. Accordingly, translation is tightly controlled and heavily regulated to maintain cellular homeostasis. Ribosome profiling (Ribo-seq) has revolutionized the study of translation by revealing many of its underlying mechanisms. However, equally many aspects of translation remain mysterious, in part also due to persisting challenges in the interpretation of data obtained from Ribo-seq experiments. Here, we show that some of the variability observed in Ribo-seq data has biological origins and reflects programmed heterogeneity of translation. Through a comparative analysis of Ribo-seq data from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we systematically identify short 3-codon sequences that are differentially translated (DT) across mRNAs, that is, identical sequences that are translated sometimes fast and sometimes slowly beyond what can be attributed to variability between experiments. Remarkably, the thus identified DT sequences link to mechanisms known to regulate translation elongation and are enriched in genes important for protein and organelle biosynthesis. Our results thus highlight examples of translational heterogeneity that are encoded in the genomic sequences and tuned to optimizing cellular homeostasis. More generally, our work highlights the power of Ribo-seq to understand the complexities of translation regulation.

Keywords: codon bias; protein biogenesis; ribosome profiling; tRNA modification; translation regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Codon / genetics*
  • Consensus Sequence
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Ribosomes / genetics*
  • Ribosomes / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods


  • Codon
  • RNA, Messenger