Population genetics of translational robustness

Drummond DA and Wilke CO, Genetics 173 (1) :473--81 (2006).


Recent work has shown that expression level is the main predictor of a gene’s evolutionary rate and that more highly expressed genes evolve slower. A possible explanation for this observation is selection for proteins that fold properly despite mistranslation, in short selection for translational robustness. Translational robustness leads to the somewhat paradoxical prediction that highly expressed genes are extremely tolerant to missense substitutions but nevertheless evolve very slowly. Here, we study a simple theoretical model of translational robustness that allows us to gain analytic insight into how this paradoxical behavior arises.