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RNA. 1996 Oct; 2(10): 969–981.
PMCID: PMC1369430

Structural and functional conservation of the Drosophila doublesex splicing enhancer repeat elements.


We have compared the RNA sequences and secondary structures of the Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila virilis doublesex (dsx) splicing enhancers. The sequences of the two splicing enhancers are highly divergent except for the presence of nearly identical 13-nt repeat elements (six in D. melanogaster and four in D. virilis) and a stretch of nucleotides at the 5' and 3' ends of the enhancers. In vitro RNA structure probing of the two enhancers revealed that the 13-nt repeats are predominantly single-stranded. Thus, both the primary sequences and single-stranded nature of the repeats are conserved between the two species. The significance of the primary sequence conservation was demonstrated by showing that the two enhancers are functionally interchangeable in Tra-/Tra2-dependent in vitro splicing. In addition, inhibition of splicing enhancer activity by antisense oligonucleotides complementary to the repeats demonstrated the importance of the conserved single-stranded structure of the repeats. In vitro binding studies revealed that Tra2 interacts with each of the D. melanogaster repeat elements, except for repeat 2, with affinities that are indistinguishable, whereas Tra binds nonspecifically to the enhancer. Taken together, these observations indicate that the organization of sequences within the dsx splicing enhancers of D. melanogaster and D. virilis results in a structure in which each of the repeat elements is single-stranded and therefore accessible for specific recognition by the RNA-binding domain of Tra2.

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