A primordial genetic code is proposed, having only four codons assigned, GGC meaning glycine, GAC meaning aspartate/glutamate, GCC meaning alanine-like and GUC meaning valine-like. Pathways of ambiguity reduction enlarged the codon repertoire with CUC meaning leucine, AUC meaning isoleucine, ACC meaning threonine-like and GAG meaning glutamate. Introduction of UNN anticodons, in a next episode of code evolution in which nonsense elimination was the leading theme, introduced a family box structure superposed on the original mirror structure. Finally, growth rate was the leading theme during the remaining repertoire expansion, explaining the ordered phylogenetic pattern of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. The special role of natural aptamers in the process is high-lighted, and the error robustness characteristics of the code are shown to have evolved by way of a stepwise, restricted enlargement of the tRNA repertoire, instead of by an exhaustive selection process testing myriads of codes.

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Quantum Computing and Advanced System Research

van der Gulik, P. (2007). Three phases in the evolution of the standard genetic code: how translation could get started.