CC-By Attribution 4.0 International
Codon optimization describes the process used to increase protein production by use of alternative but synonymous codon changes. In SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines codon optimizations can result in differential secondary conformations that inevitably affect a protein’s function with significant consequences to the cell. Importantly, when codon optimization increases the GC content of synthetic mRNAs, there can be an inevitable enrichment of G-quartets which potentially form G-quadruplex structures. The emerging G-quadruplexes are favorable binding sites of RNA binding proteins like helicases that inevitably affect epigenetic reprogramming of the cell by altering transcription, translation and replication. In this study, we performed a RNAfold analysis to investigate alterations in secondary structures of mRNAs in SARS-CoV-2 vaccines due to codon optimization. We show a significant increase in the GC content of mRNAs in vaccines as compared to native SARS-CoV-2 RNA sequences encoding the spike protein. As the GC enrichment leads to more G-quadruplex structure formations, these may contribute to potential pathological processes initiated by SARS-CoV-2 molecular vaccination.