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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2002 Dec;12(6):701-10.

The evolution of spliceosomal introns.

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  • 1Department of Biology Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA.


Although the widespread proliferation of introns in eukaryotic protein-coding genes remains one of the most poorly understood aspects of genomic architecture, major advances have emerged recently from large-scale genome sequencing projects and functional analyses of mRNA-processing events. Evidence supports the idea that spliceosomal introns were not only present in the stem eukaryote but diverged into at least two distinct classes very early in eukaryotic evolution. Some rough estimates of intron turnover rates are provided, and a testable hypothesis for the origin of new introns is proposed. In light of recent findings on the molecular natural history of splicing, various aspects of the phylogenetic and physical distributions of introns can now be interpreted in a theoretical framework that jointly considers the population-genetic roles of mutation, random genetic drift, and natural selection.

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