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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Aug 3;101(31):11362-7. Epub 2004 Jul 8.

Origins of recently gained introns in Caenorhabditis.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Smurfit Institute, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.


The genomes of the nematodes Caenorhabditis elegans and Caenorhabditis briggsae both contain approximately 100,000 introns, of which >6,000 are unique to one or the other species. To study the origins of new introns, we used a conservative method involving phylogenetic comparisons to animal orthologs and nematode paralogs to identify cases where an intron content difference between C. elegans and C. briggsae was caused by intron insertion rather than deletion. We identified 81 recently gained introns in C. elegans and 41 in C. briggsae. Novel introns have a stronger exon splice site consensus sequence than the general population of introns and show the same preference for phase 0 sites in codons over phases 1 and 2. More of the novel introns are inserted in genes that are expressed in the C. elegans germ line than expected by chance. Thirteen of the 122 gained introns are in genes whose protein products function in premRNA processing, including three gains in the gene for spliceosomal protein SF3B1 and two in the nonsense-mediated decay gene smg-2. Twenty-eight novel introns have significant DNA sequence identity to other introns, including three that are similar to other introns in the same gene. All of these similarities involve minisatellites or palindromes in the intron sequences. Our results suggest that at least some of the intron gains were caused by reverse splicing of a preexisting intron.

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