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Genes Dev. 1998 Jul 1;12(13):1998-2012.

Identification of functional exonic splicing enhancer motifs recognized by individual SR proteins.

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  • 1Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York 11724-2208 USA.


Using an in vitro randomization and functional selection procedure, we have identified three novel classes of exonic splicing enhancers (ESEs) recognized by human SF2/ASF, SRp40, and SRp55, respectively. These ESEs are functional in splicing and are highly specific. For SF2/ASF and SRp55, in most cases, only the cognate SR protein can efficiently recognize an ESE and activate splicing. In contrast, the SRp40-selected ESEs can function with either SRp40 or SRp55, but not with SF2/ASF. UV cross-linking/competition and immunoprecipitation experiments showed that SR proteins recognize their cognate ESEs in nuclear extract by direct and specific binding. A motif search algorithm was used to derive consensus sequences for ESEs recognized by these SR proteins. Each SR protein yielded a distinct 5- to 7-nucleotide degenerate consensus. These three consensus sequences occur at higher frequencies in exons than in introns and may thus help define exon-intron boundaries. They occur in clusters within regions corresponding to naturally occurring, mapped ESEs. We conclude that a remarkably diverse set of sequences can function as ESEs. The degeneracy of these motifs is consistent with the fact that exonic enhancers evolved within extremely diverse protein coding sequences and are recognized by a small number of SR proteins that bind RNA with limited sequence specificity.

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