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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Jul 20;424(1):1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2012.06.092. Epub 2012 Jun 23.

Human intronless genes: functional groups, associated diseases, evolution, and mRNA processing in absence of splicing.

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Cancer Center Institute, Roentgena 5, 02-781 Warsaw, Poland.


Intronless genes (IGs) constitute approximately 3% of the human genome. Human IGs are essentially different in evolution and functionality from the IGs of unicellular eukaryotes, which represent the majority in their genomes. Functional analysis of IGs has revealed a massive over-representation of signal transduction genes and genes encoding regulatory proteins important for growth, proliferation, and development. IGs also often display tissue-specific expression, usually in the nervous system and testis. These characteristics translate into IG-associated diseases, mainly neuropathies, developmental disorders, and cancer. IGs represent recent additions to the genome, created mostly by retroposition of processed mRNAs with retained functionality. Processing, nuclear export, and translation of these mRNAs should be hampered dramatically by the lack of splice factors, which normally tightly cover mature transcripts and govern their fate. However, natural IGs manage to maintain satisfactory expression levels. Different mechanisms by which IGs solve the problem of mRNA processing and nuclear export are discussed here, along with their possible impact on reporter studies.

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