The genetic code has a high level of error robustness. Using values of hydrophobicity scales as a proxy for amino acid character, and the Mean Square measure as a function quantifying error robustness, a value can be obtained for a genetic code which reflects the error robustness of that code. By comparing this value with a distribution of values belonging to codes generated by random permutations of amino acid assignments, the level of error robustness of a genetic code can be quantified. We present a calculation in which the standard genetic code is shown to be optimal. We obtain this result by (1) using recently updated values of polar requirement as input; (2) fixing seven assignments (Ile, Trp, His, Phe, Tyr, Arg, and Leu) based on aptamer considerations; and (3) using known biosynthetic relations of the 20 amino acids. This last point is reflected in an approach of subdivision (re- stricting the random reallocation of assignments to amino acid subgroups, the set of 20 being divided in four such subgroups). The three approaches to ex- plain robustness of the code (specific selection for robustness, amino acid-RNA interactions leading to assignments, or a slow growth process of assignment patterns) are reexamined in light of our findings. We offer a comprehensive hypothesis, stressing the importance of biosynthetic relations, with the code evolving from an early stage with just glycine and alanine, via intermediate stages, towards 64 codons carrying todays meaning.

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Algorithms and Complexity

Buhrman, H., van der Gulik, P., Klau, G., Schaffner, C., Speijer, D., & Stougie, L. (2013). A realistic model under which the genetic code is optimal.