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Open Access Research article

A computational survey of candidate exonic splicing enhancer motifs in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana

Mihaela Pertea1*, Stephen M Mount12 and Steven L Salzberg1

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

2 Dept. of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:159  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-159

Published: 21 May 2007



Algorithmic approaches to splice site prediction have relied mainly on the consensus patterns found at the boundaries between protein coding and non-coding regions. However exonic splicing enhancers have been shown to enhance the utilization of nearby splice sites.


We have developed a new computational technique to identify significantly conserved motifs involved in splice site regulation. First, 84 putative exonic splicing enhancer hexamers are identified in Arabidopsis thaliana. Then a Gibbs sampling program called ELPH was used to locate conserved motifs represented by these hexamers in exonic regions near splice sites in confirmed genes. Oligomers containing 35 of these motifs have been shown experimentally to induce significant inclusion of A. thaliana exons. Second, integration of our regulatory motifs into two different splice site recognition programs significantly improved the ability of the software to correctly predict splice sites in a large database of confirmed genes. We have released GeneSplicerESE, the improved splice site recognition code, as open source software.


Our results show that the use of the ESE motifs consistently improves splice site prediction accuracy.