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RNA. 2003 May;9(5):607-17.

A quantitative analysis of intron effects on mammalian gene expression.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biochemistry, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454, USA.


In higher eukaryotes, intron-containing and intronless versions of otherwise identical genes can exhibit dramatically different expression profiles. Introns and the act of their removal by the spliceosome can affect gene expression at many different levels, including transcription, polyadenylation, mRNA export, translational efficiency, and the rate of mRNA decay. However, the extent to which each of these steps contributes to the overall effect of any one intron on gene expression has not been rigorously tested. Here we report construction and initial characterization of a luciferase-based reporter system for monitoring the effects of individual introns and their position within the gene on protein expression in mammalian cells. Quantitative analysis of constructs containing human TPI intron 6 at two different positions within the Renilla luciferase open reading frame revealed that this intron acts primarily to enhance mRNA accumulation. Spliced mRNAs also exhibited higher translational yields than did intronless transcripts. However, nucleocytoplasmic mRNA distribution and mRNA stability were largely unaffected. These findings were extended to two other introns in a TCR-beta minigene.

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