Codon usage regulates human KRAS expression at both transcriptional and translational levels

Jingjing Fu, Yunkun Dang, Christopher Counter, Yi Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


KRAS and HRAS are highly homologous oncogenic Ras GTPase family members that are mutated in a wide spectrum of human cancers. Despite having high amino acid identity, KRAS and HRAS have very different codon usage biases: the HRAS gene contains many common codons, and KRAS is enriched for rare codons. Rare codons in KRAS suppress its protein expression, which has been shown to affect both normal and cancer biology in mammals. Here, using HRAS or KRAS expression in different human cell lines and in vitro transcription and translation assays, we show that KRAS rare codons inhibit both translation efficiency and transcription and that the contribution of these two processes varies among different cell lines. We observed that codon usage regulates mRNA translation efficiency such that WT KRAS mRNA is poorly translated. On the other hand, common codons increased transcriptional rates by promoting activating histone modifications and recruitment of transcriptional coactivators. Finally, we found that codon usage also influences KRAS protein conformation, likely because of its effect on co-translational protein folding. Together, our results reveal that codon usage has multidimensional effects on protein expression, ranging from effects on transcription to protein folding in human cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17929-17940
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 16 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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