Tandem repeat (TR) DNA mutates faster than other DNA by insertion and deletion of repeats. Large parts of eukaryotic proteomes are encoded by ORFs containing protein-coding TRs (TR-ORFs, pcTRs) with largely unknown biological consequences. We explored these in the yeast Candida albicans
, an opportunistic human pathogen. We found that almost half of C. albicans’
proteins are encoded by TR-ORFs. pcTR frequency differed only moderately between different gene (GO) categories. Bioinformatic predictions of genome-wide mutation rates and clade-specific differences in pcTR allele frequencies indicated that pcTRs (i) significantly increase the genome-wide mutation rate; (ii) significantly impact on fitness and (iii) allow the evolution of selectively advantageous clade-specific protein variants. Synonymous mutations reduced the repetitiveness of many amino acid repeat-encoding pcTRs. A survey, in 58 strains, revealed that in some pcTR regions in which repetitiveness was not significantly diminished by synonymous mutations the habitat predicted which alleles were present, suggesting roles of pcTR mutation in short-term adaptation and pathogenesis. In C. albicans
pcTR mutation apparently is an important mechanism for mutational advance and possibly also rapid adaptation, with synonymous mutations providing a mechanism for adjusting mutation rates of individual pcTRs. Analyses of Arabidopsis
and human pcTRs showed that the latter also occurs in other eukaryotes.
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