CC BY 4.0 · Glob Med Genet 2021; 08(03): 109-115
DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1729753
Original Article

Human Codon Usage: The Genetic Basis of Pathogen Latency

1  Department of Biosciences, Biotechnologies and Biopharmaceutics, University of Bari, Bari, Italy
› Author Affiliations
Funding None.


Infectious diseases pose two main compelling issues. First, the identification of the molecular factors that allow chronic infections, that is, the often completely asymptomatic coexistence of infectious agents with the human host. Second, the definition of the mechanisms that allow the switch from pathogen dormancy to pathologic (re)activation. Furthering previous studies, the present study (1) analyzed the frequency of occurrence of synonymous codons in coding DNA, that is, codon usage, as a genetic tool that rules protein expression; (2) described how human codon usage can inhibit protein expression of infectious agents during latency, so that pathogen genes the codon usage of which does not conform to the human codon usage cannot be translated; and (3) framed human codon usage among the front-line instruments of the innate immunity against infections. In parallel, it was shown that, while genetics can account for the molecular basis of pathogen latency, the changes of the quantitative relationship between codon frequencies and isoaccepting tRNAs during cell proliferation offer a biochemical mechanism that explains the pathogen switching to (re)activation. Immunologically, this study warns that using codon optimization methodologies can (re)activate, potentiate, and immortalize otherwise quiescent, asymptomatic pathogens, thus leading to uncontrollable pandemics.

Supplementary Material

Publication History

Publication Date:
14 June 2021 (online)

© 2021. The Author(s). This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, permitting unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction so long as the original work is properly cited. (

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