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Genes Dev. 1991 Jun;5(6):1022-31.

mRNA-type introns in U6 small nuclear RNA genes: implications for the catalysis in pre-mRNA splicing.

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Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.


U6 small nuclear RNA is one of the spliceosomal RNAs involved in pre-mRNA splicing. In the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, the U6 RNA gene was found to have an intron similar to a nuclear pre-mRNA intron, and it was proposed that the U6 intron might be inserted erroneously during pre-mRNA splicing. Using the polymerase chain reaction, we analyzed the U6 RNA genes of 52 organisms. In addition to the five species of Schizosaccharomyces, we found that the yeast species Rhodotorula hasegawae and Rhodosporidium dacryoidum also have mRNA-type introns in their U6 genes; however, in all the other organisms tested, we found no intron within the region of the U6 gene examined. Four introns and one intron are present in the R. hasegawae and R. dacryoidum U6 genes, respectively; and these introns are located at sites differing from the location of the Schizosaccharomyces U6 intron. Most of the U6 introns locate within the conserved domain, which is strikingly similar in structure to the catalytic center of the negative strand of the satellite RNA of tobacco ring spot virus. The introns of the S. pombe and R. dacryoidum U6 genes are located immediately adjacent to the nucleotides that were shown to be essential for the second step of the splicing reaction. These results support the notion that U6 RNA has a catalytic role in pre-mRNA splicing and that U6 introns originated from insertion of an excised intron during pre-mRNA splicing.

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