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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 29, 1995; 92(18): 8507–8511.

Seven newly discovered intron positions in the triose-phosphate isomerase gene: evidence for the introns-late theory.


The gene encoding the glycolytic enzyme triose-phosphate isomerase (TPI; EC has been central to the long-standing controversy on the origin and evolutionary significance of spliceosomal introns by virtue of its pivotal support for the introns-early view, or exon theory of genes. Putative correlations between intron positions and TPI protein structure have led to the conjecture that the gene was assembled by exon shuffling, and five TPI intron positions are old by the criterion of being conserved between animals and plants. We have sequenced TPI genes from three diverse eukaryotes--the basidiomycete Coprinus cinereus, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and the insect Heliothis virescens--and have found introns at seven novel positions that disrupt previously recognized gene/protein structure correlations. The set of 21 TPI introns now known is consistent with a random model of intron insertion. Twelve of the 21 TPI introns appear to be of recent origin since each is present in but a single examined species. These results, together with their implication that as more TPI genes are sequenced more intron positions will be found, render TPI untenable as a paradigm for the introns-early theory and, instead, support the introns-late view that spliceosomal introns have been inserted into preexisting genes during eukaryotic evolution.

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