IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Coevolution of Genes and the Genetic Code


  • Guy Sella
  • David H. Ardell


The Standard Genetic Code (SGC) is the mapping of nucleic acids into polypeptides that is employed, sometimes with minor variations1, in every organism, organelle and virus. The organization of the SGC is highly non-random2-8. In the four decades since the discovery of the SGC a large spectrum of hypotheses have been conceived to explain how its organization came about. These include a variety of load minimizing hypotheses2,3,5,6,9-15, the frozen accident hypothesis16, the ambiguity reduction hypothesis17,18, the stereochemical hypothesis14,16,19-25, and the metabolic coevolutionary hypothesis26,27. None of these hypotheses has laid down a theory that is fully fledged in the sense that it (i) begins from biological or biochemical considerations, (ii) derives the evolutionary mechanisms that follow from such considerations, and (iii) shows how these mechanisms can reproduce the patterns in the organization of the SGC. Here we present the first fully fledged theory for the evolution of the SGC. The theory derives from two fundamental observations: first, there are patterns in the SGC that strongly suggest that systematic error in replication and translation played a causal role in its evolution2-8; and second, the evolution of a genetic code is mediated through the protein-coding genes, where selection acts upon the proteins which are the product of translating these genes with the genetic code16. We derive the evolutionary mechanisms of code formation that follow from these observations, and show how these mechanisms reproduce two of the salient organizational patterns of the SGC. (Superscript numbers in text denote references cited at the end of the paper.)

Suggested Citation

  • Guy Sella & David H. Ardell, 2001. "The Coevolution of Genes and the Genetic Code," Working Papers 01-03-015, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-03-015

    Download full text from publisher

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jose M. Montoya & Ricard V. Solé, 2000. "Small World Patterns in Food Webs," Working Papers 00-10-059, Santa Fe Institute.
    2. Ricard V. Solé & José M. Montoya, 2000. "Complexity and Fragility in Ecological Networks," Working Papers 00-11-060, Santa Fe Institute.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-03-015. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Thomas Krichel). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.