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RNA. 2007 Dec;13(12):2066-80. Epub 2007 Oct 23.

Evolution of small nuclear RNAs in S. cerevisiae, C. albicans, and other hemiascomycetous yeasts.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143-2200, USA.


The spliceosome is a large, dynamic ribonuclear protein complex, required for the removal of intron sequences from newly synthesized eukaryotic RNAs. The spliceosome contains five essential small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs): U1, U2, U4, U5, and U6. Phylogenetic comparisons of snRNAs from protists to mammals have long demonstrated remarkable conservation in both primary sequence and secondary structure. In contrast, the snRNAs of the hemiascomycetous yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae have highly unusual features that set them apart from the snRNAs of other eukaryotes. With an emphasis on the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans, we have now identified and compared snRNAs from newly sequenced yeast genomes, providing a perspective on spliceosome evolution within the hemiascomycetes. In addition to tracing the origins of previously identified snRNA variations present in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we have found numerous unexpected changes occurring throughout the hemiascomycetous lineages. Our observations reveal interesting examples of RNA and protein coevolution, giving rise to altered interaction domains, losses of deeply conserved snRNA-binding proteins, and unique snRNA sequence changes within the catalytic center of the spliceosome. These same yeast lineages have experienced exceptionally high rates of intron loss, such that modern hemiascomycetous genomes contain introns in only approximately 5% of their genes. Also, the splice site sequences of those introns that remain adhere to an unusually strict consensus. Some of the snRNA variations we observe may thus reflect the altered intron landscape with which the hemiascomycetous spliceosome must contend.

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