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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Dec 19, 1995; 92(26): 12495–12499.

Intron phase correlations and the evolution of the intron/exon structure of genes.


Two issues in the evolution of the intron/exon structure of genes are the role of exon shuffling and the origin of introns. Using a large data base of eukaryotic intron-containing genes, we have found that there are correlations between intron phases leading to an excess of symmetric exons and symmetric exon sets. We interpret these excesses as manifestations of exon shuffling and make a conservative estimate that at least 19% of the exons in the data base were involved in exon shuffling, suggesting an important role for exon shuffling in evolution. Furthermore, these excesses of symmetric exons appear also in those regions of eukaryotic genes that are homologous to prokaryotic genes: the ancient conserved regions. This last fact cannot be explained in terms of the insertional theory of introns but rather supports the concept that some of the introns were ancient, the exon theory of genes.

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