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RNA Biol. 2010 Jul-Aug;7(4):397-402. Epub 2010 Jul 1.

A conserved alternative splicing event in plants reveals an ancient exonization of 5S rRNA that regulates TFIIIA.

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Department of Biology and the Florida Genetics Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL USA.


Uncovering conserved alternative splicing (AS) events can identify AS events that perform important functions. This is especially useful for identifying premature stop codon containing (PTC) AS isoforms that may regulate protein expression by being targets for nonsense mediated decay. This report discusses the identification of a PTC containing splice isoform of the TFIIIA gene that is highly conserved in land plants. TFIIIA is essential for RNA Polymerase III-based transcription of 5S rRNA in eukaryotes. Two independent groups have determined that the PTC containing alternative exon is ultraconserved and is coupled with nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. The alternative exon appears to have been derived by the exonization of 5S ribosomal RNA (5S rRNA) within the gene of its own transcription regulator, TFIIIA. This provides the first evidence of ancient exaptation of 5S rRNA in plants, suggesting a novel gene regulation model mediated by the AS of an anciently exonized non-coding element.

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