Journal Article

Extensive frameshift at all AGG and CCC codons in the mitochondrial cytochrome <i>c</i> oxidase subunit 1 gene of <i>Perkinsus marinus</i> (Alveolata; Dinoflagellata)

Isao Masuda, Motomichi Matsuzaki and Kiyoshi Kita

in Nucleic Acids Research

Volume 38, issue 18, pages 6186-6194
Published in print October 2010 | ISSN: 0305-1048
Published online May 2010 | e-ISSN: 1362-4962 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkq449

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Diverse mitochondrial (mt) genetic systems have evolved independently of the more uniform nuclear system and often employ modified genetic codes. The organization and genetic system of dinoflagellate mt genomes are particularly unusual and remain an evolutionary enigma. We determined the sequence of full-length cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) mRNA of the earliest diverging dinoflagellate Perkinsus and show that this gene resides in the mt genome. Apparently, this mRNA is not translated in a single reading frame with standard codon usage. Our examination of the nucleotide sequence and three-frame translation of the mRNA suggest that the reading frame must be shifted 10 times, at every AGG and CCC codon, to yield a consensus COX1 protein. We suggest two possible mechanisms for these translational frameshifts: a ribosomal frameshift in which stalled ribosomes skip the first bases of these codons or specialized tRNAs recognizing non-triplet codons, AGGY and CCCCU. Regardless of the mechanism, active and efficient machinery would be required to tolerate the frameshifts predicted in Perkinsus mitochondria. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence of translational frameshifts in protist mitochondria and, by far, is the most extensive case in mitochondria.

Journal Article.  5959 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Chemistry ; Biochemistry ; Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ; Genetics and Genomics ; Molecular and Cell Biology

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