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J Neurosci. 1992 Mar;12(3):895-905.

Alternative splicing of micro-exons creates multiple forms of the insect cell adhesion molecule fasciclin I.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


Fasciclin I is a homophilic cell adhesion molecule in insects that is dynamically expressed on a subset of axon pathways in the embryonic nervous system, and on a variety of other cells and tissues during development. The fasciclin I protein consists of four homologous 150 amino acid domains. In this article, we describe the complete sequence of the Drosophila fasciclin I (fasI) gene. The gene consists of 15 exons and is distributed over 14 kilobases of DNA. We examine the structure and temporal expression pattern of multiple fasciclin I mRNAs that differ in the lengths of their 3' untranslated regions. We also show that a highly conserved sequence at the end of the second domain can be altered by the addition of three or six amino acids that are encoded by two alternatively spliced 9 base pair (bp) micro-exons. In grasshopper fasciclin I mRNAs, there are 9 bp and 6 bp insertions at the same position. The first of these insertions is identical in sequence to the first fly micro-exon. The grasshopper insertions are not found together in the same mRNA, so grasshopper fasciclin I species differ by the addition of three or two extra amino acids to the second domain. The alternatively spliced mRNAs are differentially expressed during embryogenesis, and all three of them are present in nerve cord preparations. We suggest that the amino acids inserted by alternative micro-exon splicing may alter the binding specificity of fasciclin I.

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