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RNA. 2011 Oct;17(10):1907-21. doi: 10.1261/rna.2825811. Epub 2011 Aug 31.

The presence of multiple introns is essential for ERECTA expression in Arabidopsis.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.


Gene expression in eukaryotes is often enhanced by the presence of introns. Depending on the specific gene, this enhancement can be minor or very large and occurs at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. The Arabidopsis ERECTA gene contains 27 exons encoding a receptor-like kinase that promotes cell proliferation and inhibits cell differentiation in above-ground plant organs. The expression of ERECTA very strongly depends on the presence of introns. The intronless ERECTA gene does not rescue the phenotype of erecta mutant plants and produces about 500-900 times less protein compared with the identical construct containing introns. This result is somewhat surprising as the region upstream of the ERECTA coding sequence effectively promotes the expression of extraneous genes. Here, we demonstrate that introns are essential for ERECTA mRNA accumulation and, to a lesser extent, for mRNA utilization in translation. Since mRNA produced by intronless ERECTA is degraded at the 3' end, we speculate that introns increase mRNA accumulation through increasing its stability at least in part. No individual intron is absolutely necessary for ERECTA expression, but rather multiple introns in specific locations increase ERECTA expression in an additive manner. The ability of introns to promote ERECTA expression might be linked to the process of splicing and not to a particular intron sequence.

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