Codon usage biases are found in all eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes and have been proposed to regulate different aspects of translation process. Codon optimality has been shown to regulate translation elongation speed in fungal systems, but its effect on translation elongation speed in animal systems is not clear. In this study, we used a Drosophila cell-free translation system to directly compare the velocity of mRNA translation elongation. Our results demonstrate that optimal synonymous codons speed up translation elongation while non-optimal codons slow down translation. In addition, codon usage regulates ribosome movement and stalling on mRNA during translation. Finally, we show that codon usage affects protein structure and function in vitro and in Drosophila cells. Together, these results suggest that the effect of codon usage on translation elongation speed is a conserved mechanism from fungi to animals that can affect protein folding in eukaryotic organisms.
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