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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Jul 23;93(15):7727-31.

Exon shuffling and the origin of the mitochondrial targeting function in plant cytochrome c1 precursor.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, The Biological Laboratories, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Since most of the examples of "exon shuffling" are between vertebrate genes, the view is often expressed that exon shuffling is limited to the evolutionarily recent lineage of vertebrates. Although exon shuffling in plants has been inferred from the analysis of intron phases of plant genes [Long, M., Rosenberg, C. & Gilbert, W. (1995) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 92, 12495-12499] and from the comparison of two functionally unknown sunflower genes [Domon, C. & Steinmetz, A. (1994) Mol. Gen. Genet. 244, 312-317], clear cases of exon shuffling in plant genes remain to be uncovered. Here, we report an example of exon shuffling in two important nucleus-encoded plant genes: cytosolic glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (cytosolic GAPDH or GapC) and cytochrome c1 precursor. The intron-exon structures of the shuffled region indicate that the shuffling event took place at the DNA sequence level. In this case, we can establish a donor-recipient relationship for the exon shuffling. Three amino terminal exons of GapC have been donated to cytochrome c1, where, in a new protein environment, they serve as a source of the mitochondrial targeting function. This finding throws light upon an old important but unsolved question in gene evolution: the origin of presequences or transit peptides that generally exist in nucleus-encoded organelle genes.

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