NAR Genomics and Bioinformatics, 4(2), 2020
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Abstract Ribosomal genes produce the constituents of the ribosome, one of the most conserved subcellular structures of all cells, from bacteria to eukaryotes, including animals. There are notions that some protein-coding ribosomal genes vary in their roles across species, particularly vertebrates, through the involvement of some in a number of genetic diseases. Based on extensive sequence comparisons and systematic curation, we establish a reference set for ribosomal proteins (RPs) in eleven vertebrate species and quantify their sequence conservation levels. Moreover, we correlate their coordinated gene expression patterns within up to 33 tissues and assess the exceptional role of paralogs in tissue specificity. Importantly, our analysis supported by the development and use of machine learning models strongly proposes that the variation in the observed tissue-specific gene expression of RPs is rather species-related and not due to tissue-based evolutionary processes. The data obtained suggest that RPs exhibit a complex relationship between their structure and function that broadly maintains a consistent expression landscape across tissues, while most of the variation arises from species idiosyncrasies. The latter may be due to evolutionary change and adaptation, rather than functional constraints at the tissue level throughout the vertebrate lineage.