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Cell. 1989 Feb 10;56(3):421-30.

A latent intron-encoded maturase is also an endonuclease needed for intron mobility.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, Ohio State University, Columbus 43210.


Some yeast mitochondrial introns encode proteins that promote either splicing (maturases) or intron propagation via gene conversion (the fit1 endonuclease). We surveyed introns in the coxl gene for their ability to engage in gene conversion and found that the group I intron, al4 alpha, was efficiently transmitted to genes lacking it. An endonucleolytic cleavage is detectable in recipient DNA molecules near the site of intron insertion in vivo and in vitro. Conversion is dependent on an intact al4 alpha open reading frame. This intron product is a latent maturase, but these data show that it is also a potent endonuclease involved in recombination. Dual function proteins that cleave DNA and facilitate RNA splicing may have played a pivotal role in the propagation and tolerance of introns.

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