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Genome Res. 2014 May;24(5):786-96. doi: 10.1101/gr.161521.113. Epub 2014 Feb 10.

Evolution of splicing regulatory networks in Drosophila.

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Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Institute for Systems Genomics, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06030, USA;


The proteome expanding effects of alternative pre-mRNA splicing have had a profound impact on eukaryotic evolution. The events that create this diversity can be placed into four major classes: exon skipping, intron retention, alternative 5' splice sites, and alternative 3' splice sites. Although the regulatory mechanisms and evolutionary pressures among alternative splicing classes clearly differ, how these differences affect the evolution of splicing regulation remains poorly characterized. We used RNA-seq to investigate splicing differences in D. simulans, D. sechellia, and three strains of D. melanogaster. Regulation of exon skipping and tandem alternative 3' splice sites (NAGNAGs) were more divergent than other splicing classes. Splicing regulation was most divergent in frame-preserving events and events in noncoding regions. We further determined the contributions of cis- and trans-acting changes in splicing regulatory networks by comparing allele-specific splicing in F1 interspecific hybrids, because differences in allele-specific splicing reflect changes in cis-regulatory element activity. We find that species-specific differences in intron retention and alternative splice site usage are primarily attributable to changes in cis-regulatory elements (median ∼80% cis), whereas species-specific exon skipping differences are driven by both cis- and trans-regulatory divergence (median ∼50% cis). These results help define the mechanisms and constraints that influence splicing regulatory evolution and show that networks regulating the four major classes of alternative splicing diverge through different genetic mechanisms. We propose a model in which differences in regulatory network architecture among classes of alternative splicing affect the evolution of splicing regulation.

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