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J Biol Chem. 2002 Feb 22;277(8):5882-90. Epub 2001 Nov 28.

Intergenic mRNA molecules resulting from trans-splicing.

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Center for Nutrition and Toxicology, Department of Biosciences, Novum, Karolinska Institute, SE-14157 Huddinge, Sweden.


Accumulated recent evidence is indicating that alternative splicing represents a generalized process that increases the complexity of human gene expression. Here we show that mRNA production may not necessarily be limited to single genes, as human liver also has the potential to produce a variety of hybrid cytochrome P450 3A mRNA molecules. The four known cytochrome P450 3A genes in humans, CYP3A4, CYP3A5, CYP3A7, and CYP3A43, share a high degree of similarity, consist of 13 exons with conserved exon-intron boundaries, and form a cluster on chromosome 7. The chimeric CYP3A mRNA molecules described herein are characterized by CYP3A43 exon 1 joined at canonical splice sites to distinct sets of CYP3A4 or CYP3A5 exons. Because the CYP3A43 gene is in a head-to-head orientation with the CYP3A4 and CYP3A5 genes, bypassing transcriptional termination can not account for the formation of hybrid CYP3A mRNAs. Thus, the mechanism generating these molecules has to be an RNA processing event that joins exons of independent pre-mRNA molecules, i.e. trans-splicing. Using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, the ratio of one CYP3A43/3A4 intergenic combination was estimated to be approximately 0.15% that of the CYP3A43 mRNAs. Moreover, trans-splicing has been found not to interfere with polyadenylation. Heterologous expression of the chimeric species composed of CYP3A43 exon 1 joined to exons 2-13 of CYP3A4 revealed catalytic activity toward testosterone.

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