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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Nov 8;102(45):16176-81. Epub 2005 Oct 31.

The architecture of pre-mRNAs affects mechanisms of splice-site pairing.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-4025, USA.

Abstract

The exon/intron architecture of genes determines whether components of the spliceosome recognize splice sites across the intron or across the exon. Using in vitro splicing assays, we demonstrate that splice-site recognition across introns ceases when intron size is between 200 and 250 nucleotides. Beyond this threshold, splice sites are recognized across the exon. Splice-site recognition across the intron is significantly more efficient than splice-site recognition across the exon, resulting in enhanced inclusion of exons with weak splice sites. Thus, intron size can profoundly influence the likelihood that an exon is constitutively or alternatively spliced. An EST-based alternative-splicing database was used to determine whether the exon/intron architecture influences the probability of alternative splicing in the Drosophila and human genomes. Drosophila exons flanked by long introns display an up to 90-fold-higher probability of being alternatively spliced compared with exons flanked by two short introns, demonstrating that the exon/intron architecture in Drosophila is a major determinant in governing the frequency of alternative splicing. Exon skipping is also more likely to occur when exons are flanked by long introns in the human genome. Interestingly, experimental and computational analyses show that the length of the upstream intron is more influential in inducing alternative splicing than is the length of the downstream intron. We conclude that the size and location of the flanking introns control the mechanism of splice-site recognition and influence the frequency and the type of alternative splicing that a pre-mRNA transcript undergoes.

PMID:
16260721
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1283478
Free PMC Article

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