Molecular Biology and Evolution 39(2) , msab372 ( 2022)
Protein-coding genes evolved codon usage bias due to the combined but uneven effects of adaptive and nonadaptive influences. Studies in model fungi agree on codon usage bias as an adaptation for fine-tuning gene expression levels; however, such knowledge is lacking for most other fungi. Our comparative genomics analysis of over 450 species supports codon usage and transfer RNAs (tRNAs) as coadapted for translation speed and this is most likely a realization of convergent evolution. Rather than drift, phylogenetic reconstruction inferred adaptive radiation as the best explanation for the variation of interspecific codon usage bias. Although the phylogenetic signals for individual codon and tRNAs frequencies are lower than expected by genetic drift, we found remarkable conservation of highly expressed genes being codon optimized for translation by the most abundant tRNAs, especially by inosine-modified tRNAs. As an application, we present a sequence-to-expression neural network that uses codons to reliably predict highly expressed transcripts. The kingdom Fungi, with over a million species, includes many key players in various ecosystems and good targets for biotechnology. Collectively, our results have implications for better understanding the evolutionary success of fungi, as well as informing the biosynthetic manipulation of fungal genes.