Kozak consensus sequence

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The Kozak consensus sequence, Kozak consensus or Kozak sequence, is a sequence which occurs on eukaryotic mRNA and has the consensus (gcc)gccRccAUGG. The Kozak consensus sequence plays a major role in the initiation of the translation process.[1] The sequence was named after the person who brought it to prominence, Marilyn Kozak.

The sequence is identified by the notation (gcc)gccRccAUGG, which summarizes data analysed by Kozak from a wide variety of sources (about 699 in all)[2] as follows:

  1. a lower case letter denotes the most common base at a position where the base can nevertheless vary;
  2. upper case letters indicate highly conserved bases, i.e. the 'AUGG' sequence is constant or rarely, if ever, changes, with the exception being the IUPAC ambiguity code [3] 'R' which indicates that a purine (adenine or guanine) is always observed at this position (with adenine being claimed by Kozak to be more frequent); and
  3. the sequence in brackets ((gcc)) is of uncertain significance.

Kozak's paper was limited to a subset of vertebrates (i.e. human, cow, cat, dog, chicken, guinea pig, hamster, mouse, pig, rabbit, sheep, and xenopus).


This sequence on an mRNA molecule is recognized by the ribosome as the translational start site, from which a protein is coded by that mRNA molecule. The ribosome requires this sequence, or a possible variation (see below) to initiate translation. The Kozak sequence is not to be confused with the ribosomal binding site (RBS), that being either the 5' cap of a messenger RNA or an Internal ribosome entry site (IRES).

In vivo, this site is often not matched exactly on different mRNAs and the amount of protein synthesized from a given mRNA is dependent on the strength of the Kozak sequence.[4] Some nucleotides in this sequence are more important than others: the AUG is most important because it is the actual initiation codon encoding a methionine amino acid at the N-terminus of the protein. (Rarely, CUG is used as an initiation codon, encoding a leucine instead of the typical methionine.) The A nucleotide of the "AUG" is referred to as number 1. For a 'strong' consensus, the nucleotides at positions +4 (i.e. G in the consensus) and -3 (i.e. either A or G in the consensus) relative to the number 1 nucleotide must both match the consensus (there is no number 0 position). An 'adequate' consensus has only 1 of these sites, while a 'weak' consensus has neither. The cc at -1 and -2 are not as conserved, but contribute to the overall strength.[5] There is also evidence that a G in the -6 position is important in the initiation of translation.[1]

There are examples in vivo of each of these types of Kozak consensus, and they probably evolved as yet another mechanism of gene regulation. Lmx1b is an example of a gene with a weak Kozak consensus sequence.[6] For initiation of translation from such a site, other features are required in the mRNA sequence in order for the ribosome to recognize the initiation codon.

A sequence logo showing the most conserved bases around the initiation codon from 10 000 human mRNAs.


Research has shown that a mutation of G—>C in the -6 position of the β-globin gene (β+45; human) disrupted the haematological and biosynthetic phenotype function. This was the first mutation found in the Kozak sequence. It was found in a family from the Southeast Italy and they suffered from thalassaemia intermedia.[1]

Variations in the consensus sequence[edit]

Kozak-like sequences in various eukaryotes
Biota Phylum Consensus sequences
Fruit fly (Drosophila spp.) Arthropoda   cAAacATG[7]
Budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) Ascomycota aAaAaAATGTCt[8]
Slime mold (Dictyostelium discoideum) Amoebozoa aaaAAAATGRna[9]
Ciliate Ciliophora nTaAAAATGRct[9]
Malarial protozoa (Plasmodium spp.) Apicomplexa taaAAAATGAan[9]
Toxoplasma (Toxoplasma gondii) Apicomplexa gncAaaATGg[10]
Trypanosomatidae Euglenozoa nnnAnnATGnC[9]
Terrestrial plants

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c De Angioletti M, Lacerra G, Sabato V, Carestia C (2004). "Beta+45 G --> C: a novel silent beta-thalassaemia mutation, the first in the Kozak sequence". Br J Haematol 124 (2): 224–31. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2141.2003.04754.x. PMID 14687034. 
  2. ^ a b Kozak M (October 1987). "An analysis of 5'-noncoding sequences from 699 vertebrate messenger RNAs". Nucleic Acids Res. 15 (20): 8125–8148. doi:10.1093/nar/15.20.8125. PMC 306349. PMID 3313277. 
  3. ^ Nomenclature for Incompletely Specified Bases in Nucleic Acid Sequences, NC-IUB, 1984.
  4. ^ Kozak M (1984). "Point mutations close to the AUG initiator codon affect the efficiency of translation of rat preproinsulin in vivo". Nature 308 (5956): 241–246. doi:10.1038/308241a0. PMID 6700727. 
  5. ^ Kozak M (1986). "Point mutations define a sequence flanking the AUG initiator codon that modulates translation by eukaryotic ribosomes". Cell 44 (2): 283–92. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(86)90762-2. PMID 3943125. 
  6. ^ Dunston JA, Hamlington JD, Zaveri J, et al. (September 2004). "The human LMX1B gene: transcription unit, promoter, and pathogenic mutations". Genomics 84 (3): 565–76. doi:10.1016/j.ygeno.2004.06.002. PMID 15498463. 
  7. ^ Cavener DR (February 1987). "Comparison of the consensus sequence flanking translational start sites in Drosophila and vertebrates". Nucleic Acids Res. 15 (4): 1353–61. doi:10.1093/nar/15.4.1353. PMC 340553. PMID 3822832. 
  8. ^ Hamilton R, Watanabe CK, de Boer HA (April 1987). "Compilation and comparison of the sequence context around the AUG startcodons in Saccharomyces cerevisiae mRNAs". Nucleic Acids Res. 15 (8): 3581–93. doi:10.1093/nar/15.8.3581. PMC 340751. PMID 3554144. 
  9. ^ a b c d Yamauchi K (May 1991). "The sequence flanking translational initiation site in protozoa". Nucleic Acids Res. 19 (10): 2715–20. doi:10.1093/nar/19.10.2715. PMC 328191. PMID 2041747. 
  10. ^ Seeber, F. (1997). "Consensus sequence of translational initiation sites from Toxoplasma gondii genes". Parasitology Research 83 (3): 309–311. doi:10.1007/s004360050254. PMID 9089733. 
  11. ^ Lütcke HA, Chow KC, Mickel FS, Moss KA, Kern HF, Scheele GA (January 1987). "Selection of AUG initiation codons differs in plants and animals". EMBO J. 6 (1): 43–8. PMC 553354. PMID 3556162. 

Further reading[edit]