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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Dec 21;96(26):14937-42.

Splicing is required for rapid and efficient mRNA export in metazoans.

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Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Pre-mRNA splicing is among the last known nuclear events before export of mature mRNA to the cytoplasm. At present, it is not known whether splicing and mRNA export are biochemically coupled processes. In this study, we have injected pre-mRNAs containing a single intron or the same mRNAs lacking an intron (Deltai-mRNAs) into Xenopus oocyte nuclei. We find that the spliced mRNAs are exported much more rapidly and efficiently than the identical Deltai-mRNAs. Moreover, competition studies using excess Deltai-mRNA indicate that different factor(s) are involved in the inefficient export of Deltai-mRNA vs. the efficient export of spliced mRNA. Consistent with this conclusion, spliced mRNA and Deltai-mRNA, though identical in sequence, are assembled into different messenger ribonucleoprotein particles (mRNP) in vitro. Strikingly, the mRNA in the spliced mRNP, but not in the Deltai-mRNP, is exported rapidly and efficiently. We conclude that splicing generates a specific nucleoprotein complex that targets mRNA for export. Our results, revealing a link between splicing and efficient mRNA export, may explain the reports that an intron is required for efficient expression of many protein-coding genes in metazoans.

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