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RNA. 2015 Oct;21(10):1704-18. doi: 10.1261/rna.051268.115. Epub 2015 Aug 5.

Nucleotide sequence composition adjacent to intronic splice sites improves splicing efficiency via its effect on pre-mRNA local folding in fungi.

Author information

1
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.
2
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel The Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.

Abstract

RNA splicing is the central process of intron removal in eukaryotes known to regulate various cellular functions such as growth, development, and response to external signals. The canonical sequences indicating the splicing sites needed for intronic boundary recognition are well known. However, the roles and evolution of the local folding of intronic and exonic sequence features adjacent to splice sites has yet to be thoroughly studied. Here, focusing on four fungi (Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Aspergillus nidulans, and Candida albicans), we performed for the first time a comprehensive high-resolution study aimed at characterizing the encoding of intronic splicing efficiency in pre-mRNA transcripts and its effect on intron evolution. Our analysis supports the conjecture that pre-mRNA local folding strength at intronic boundaries is under selective pressure, as it significantly affects splicing efficiency. Specifically, we show that in the immediate region of 12-30 nucleotides (nt) surrounding the intronic donor site there is a preference for weak pre-mRNA folding; similarly, in the region of 15-33 nt surrounding the acceptor and branch sites there is a preference for weak pre-mRNA folding. We also show that in most cases there is a preference for strong pre-mRNA folding further away from intronic splice sites. In addition, we demonstrate that these signals are not associated with gene-specific functions, and they correlate with splicing efficiency measurements (r = 0.77, P = 2.98 × 10(-21)) and with expression levels of the corresponding genes (P = 1.24 × 10(-19)). We suggest that pre-mRNA folding strength in the above-mentioned regions has a direct effect on splicing efficiency by improving the recognition of intronic boundaries. These new discoveries are contributory steps toward a broader understanding of splicing regulation and intronic/transcript evolution.

KEYWORDS:

gene expression; intron evolution; pre-mRNA folding; splicing efficiency; transcript evolution

PMID:
26246046
PMCID:
PMC4574748
DOI:
10.1261/rna.051268.115
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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