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PLoS One. 2010 Aug 27;5(8):e12456. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012456.

Caenorhabditis elegans operons contain a higher proportion of genes with multiple transcripts and use 3' splice sites differentially.

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State Key Laboratory of Medical Genetics, Central South University, Changsha, China.


RNA splicing generates multiple transcript isoforms from a single gene and enhances the complexity of eukaryotic gene expression. In some eukaryotes, operon exists as an ancient regulatory mechanism of gene expression that requires strict positional and regulatory relationships among its genes. It remains unknown whether operonic genes generate transcript isoforms in a similar manner as non-operonic genes do, the expression of which is less likely limited by their positions and relationships with surrounding genes. We analyzed the number of transcript isoforms of Caenorhabditis elegans operonic genes and found that C. elegans operons contain a much higher proportion of genes with multiple transcript isoforms than non-operonic genes do. For genes that express multiple transcript isoforms, there is no apparent difference between the number of isoforms in operonic and non-operonic genes. C. elegans operonic genes also have a different preference of the 20 most common 3' splice sites compared to non-operonic genes. Our analyses suggest that C. elegans operons enhance expression complexity by increasing the proportion of genes that express multiple transcript isoforms and maintain splicing efficiency by differential use of common 3' splice sites.

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