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Nature. 1994 Jan 27;367(6461):387-9.

Five identical intron positions in ancient duplicated genes of eubacterial origin.

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Institut für Genetik, Universität Braunschweig, Germany.


In 1985 Cornish-Bowden wrote "although there is now much to suggest that introns are an ancient relic of primordial genes, convincing proof must await the discovery of clearly corresponding intron arrangements in genes that arose by duplication before the separation of prokaryotes and eukaryotes". Genes for chloroplast and cytosolic glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenases of eukaryotes are descendants of an ancient gene family that existed in the common ancestor of extant eubacteria. During eukaryotic evolution, both genes were transferred to the nucleus from the antecedents of present-day chloroplasts and mitochondria, respectively. Here we report the discovery of five spliceosomal introns at positions that are precisely conserved between nuclear genes for this chloroplast/cytosol enzyme pair. These data provide strong evidence in favour of the 'introns early' hypothesis, which proposes that introns were present in the earliest cells, consistent with the idea that introns facilitated the assembly of primordial genes by accelerating the rate of exon shuffling.

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