On primordial sense-antisense coding

Andrei S. Rodin, Sergei N. Rodin, Charles W. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

23 Citations (Scopus)


The genetic code is implemented by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRS). These 20 enzymes are divided into two classes that, despite performing same functions, have nothing common in structure. The mystery of this striking partition of aaRSs might have been concealed in their sterically complementary modes of tRNA recognition that, as we have found recently, protect the tRNAs with complementary anticodons from confusion in translation. This finding implies that, in the beginning, life increased its coding repertoire by the pairs of complementary codons (rather than one-by-one) and used both complementary strands of genes as templates for translation. The class I and class II aaRSs may represent one of the most important examples of such primordial sense-antisense (SAS) coding (Rodin and Ohno, Orig Life Evol Biosph 25:565-589, 1995). In this report, we address the issue of SAS coding in a wider scope. We suggest a variety of advantages that such coding would have had in exploring a wider sequence space before translation became highly specific. In particular, we confirm that in Achlya klebsiana a single gene might have originally coded for an HSP70 chaperonin (class II aaRS homolog) and an NAD-specific GDH-like enzyme (class I aaRS homolog) via its sense and antisense strands. Thus, in contrast to the conclusions in Williams et al. (Mol Biol Evol 26:445-450, 2009), this could indeed be a "Rosetta stone" gene (Carter and Duax, Mol Cell 10:705-708, 2002) (eroded somewhat, though) for the SAS origin of the two aaRS classes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-567
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases
  • Genetic code
  • HSP70
  • RNA world
  • Rosetta stone
  • Sense-antisense coding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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