A deviant genetic code in the green alga-derived plastid in the dinoflagellate Lepidodinium chlorophorum

Takuya Matsumoto, Sohta A Ishikawa, Tetsuo Hashimoto, Yuji Inagaki
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 2011, 60 (1): 68-72
We here report a deviant genetic code, in which AUA is read as methionine (Met) instead of isoleucine (Ile), in the green alga-derived plastid in the dinoflagellate Lepidodinium chlorophorum. Although L. chlorophorum cDNA sequences of 11 plastid-encoded genes were deposited in the GenBank database, the non-canonical usage of AUA in this dinoflagellate plastid has been overlooked prior to this study. We compared 11 plastid-encoded genes of L. chlorophorum with the corresponding genes of 17 green algal plastids. Intriguingly, AUA often occurred in the L. chlorophorum sequences at codon positions that are predominantly occupied by Met amongst the green algal sequences. Coincidentally, the L. chlorophorum sequences utilized few AUA codons at the positions predominantly occupied by Ile amongst the green algal sequences. These observations clearly indicated that both AUA and AUG encode Met, while AUU and AUC encode Ile, in the L. chlorophorum plastid. Despite the rapidly-evolving nature of L. chlorophorum plastid-encoded genes, our statistical tests incorporating the deviant code suggest no significant difference in amino acid composition among the L. chlorophorum plastid and the green algal plastids considered in this study. Finally, the possible evolutionary events required for the reassignment of AUA from Ile to Met in Lepitodinium plastids were discussed.

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