The relationship between preferred codon use (PCU), developmental mode, and gene ontology (GO) was investigated in a sample of nine insect species with sequenced genomes. These species were selected to represent two distinct modes of insect development, holometabolism and hemimetabolism, with an aim toward determining whether the differences in developmental timing concomitant with developmental mode would be mirrored by differences in PCU in their developmental genes. We hypothesized that the developmental genes of holometabolous insects should be under greater selective pressure for efficient translation, manifest as increased PCU, than those of hemimetabolous insects because holometabolism requires abundant protein expression over shorter time intervals than hemimetabolism, where proteins are required more uniformly in time. Preferred codon sets were defined for each species, from which the frequency of PCU for each gene was obtained. Although there were substantial differences in the genomic base composition of holometabolous and hemimetabolous insects, both groups exhibited a general preference for GC-ending codons, with the former group having higher PCU averaged across all genes. For each species, the biological process GO term for each gene was assigned that of its Drosophila homolog(s), and PCU was calculated for each GO term category. The top two GO term categories for PCU enrichment in the holometabolous insects were anatomical structure development and cell differentiation. The increased PCU in the developmental genes of holometabolous insects may reflect a general strategy to maximize the protein production of genes expressed in bursts over short time periods, e.g., heat shock proteins. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 324B: 686–698, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
How to cite this article: Carlini DB, Makowski M. 2015. Codon bias and gene ontology in holometabolous and hemimetabolous insects. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 324B:686–698.