Luís A. Nunes Amaral

co-Director, Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems
Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering
Professor of Physics & Astronomy (by courtesy)
Professor of Medicine (by courtesy)

Chemical & Biological Engineering
2145 Sheridan Road (Room E136)
EvanstonIL 60208US
Phone: (847) 491-7850


The Shine-Dalgarno (SD) sequence motif is frequently found upstream of protein coding genes and is thought to be the dominant mechanism of translation initiation used by bacteria. Experimental studies have shown that the SD sequence facilitates start codon recognition and enhances translation initiation by directly interacting with the highly conserved anti-Shine-Dalgarno sequence on the 30S ribosomal subunit. However, the proportion of SD-led genes within a genome varies across species and the factors governing this variation in translation initiation mechanisms remain largely unknown. Here, we conduct a phylogenetically-informed analysis and find that species capable of rapid growth contain a higher proportion of SD-led genes throughout their genomes. We show that SD sequence utilization co-varies with a suite of genomic features that are important for efficient translation initiation and elongation. In addition to these endogenous genomic factors, we further show that exogenous environmental factors may influence the evolution of translation initiation mechanisms by finding that thermophilic species contain significantly more SD-led genes than mesophiles. Our results demonstrate that variation in translation initiation mechanisms across bacterial species is predictable and is a consequence of di?erential life-history strategies related to maximum growth rate and environmental-specific constraints.