Bilgin, T.,Kurnaz, I. A.,Wagner, A.

The phenotypes of biological systems are to some extent robust to genotypic changes. Such robustness exists on multiple levels of biological organization. We analyzed this robustness for two categories of amino acids in proteins. Specifically, we studied the codons of amino acids that bind or do not bind small molecular ligands. We asked to what extent codon changes caused by mutation or mistranslation may affect physicochemical amino acid properties or protein folding. We found that the codons of ligand-binding amino acids are on average more robust than those of non-binding amino acids. Because mistranslation is usually more frequent than mutation, we speculate that selection for error mitigation at the translational level stands behind this phenomenon. Our observations suggest that natural selection can affect the robustness of very small units of biological organization.