A three-dimensional representation of the twenty proteinogenic amino acids in a physicochemical space is presented. Vectors corresponding to amino acid substitutions are classified based on whether they are accessible via a single-nucleotide mutation. It is shown that the standard genetic code establishes a “choice architecture” that permits nearly independent tuning of the properties related with size and those related with hydrophobicity. This work sheds light on the metarules of evolvability that may have shaped the standard genetic code to increase the probability that adaptive point mutations will be generated. An illustration of the usefulness of visualizing amino acid substitutions in a 3D physicochemical space is shown using data collected from the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain. The substitutions most responsible for antibody escape are almost always inaccessible via single nucleotide mutation, and also change multiple properties concurrently. The results of this research can extend our understanding of certain hereditary disorders caused by point mutations, as well as guide the development of rational protein and vaccine design.
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Nemzer, L. R. (2021). Visualizing Amino Acid Substitutions in a Physicochemical Vector Space. bioRxiv, 1 - 23. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.07.15.452549. Retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/cnso_chemphys_facarticles/298