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PLoS One. 2008;3(10):e3587. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003587. Epub 2008 Oct 31.

Width of gene expression profile drives alternative splicing.

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  • 1Computational and Molecular Population Genetics Laboratory, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Abstract

Alternative splicing generates an enormous amount of functional and proteomic diversity in metazoan organisms. This process is probably central to the macromolecular and cellular complexity of higher eukaryotes. While most studies have focused on the molecular mechanism triggering and controlling alternative splicing, as well as on its incidence in different species, its maintenance and evolution within populations has been little investigated. Here, we propose to address these questions by comparing the structural characteristics as well as the functional and transcriptional profiles of genes with monomorphic or polymorphic splicing, referred to as MS and PS genes, respectively. We find that MS and PS genes differ particularly in the number of tissues and cell types where they are expressed.We find a striking deficit of PS genes on the sex chromosomes, particularly on the Y chromosome where it is shown not to be due to the observed lower breadth of expression of genes on that chromosome. The development of a simple model of evolution of cis-regulated alternative splicing leads to predictions in agreement with these observations. It further predicts the conditions for the emergence and the maintenance of cis-regulated alternative splicing, which are both favored by the tissue specific expression of splicing variants. We finally propose that the width of the gene expression profile is an essential factor for the acquisition of new transcript isoforms that could later be maintained by a new form of balancing selection.

PMID:
18974852
PMCID:
PMC2575406
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0003587
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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