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Open Access Research article

Effect of exonic splicing regulation on synonymous codon usage in alternatively spliced exons of Dscam

Aya Takahashi

Author Affiliations

Division of Population Genetics, National Institute of Genetics, Mishima 411-8540, Japan

Department of Genetics, Graduate University for Advanced Studies (Sokendai), Mishima 411-8540, Japan

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:214  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-214

Published: 27 August 2009

Abstract

Background

Synonymous codon usage is typically biased towards translationally superior codons in many organisms. In Drosophila, genomic data indicates that translationally optimal codons and splice optimal codons are mostly mutually exclusive, and adaptation to translational efficiency is reduced in the intron-exon boundary regions where potential exonic splicing enhancers (ESEs) reside. In contrast to genomic scale analyses on large datasets, a refined study on a well-controlled set of samples can be effective in demonstrating the effects of particular splice-related factors. Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (Dscam) has the largest number of alternatively spliced exons (ASEs) known to date, and the splicing frequency of each ASE is accessible from the relative abundance of the transcript. Thus, these ASEs comprise a unique model system for studying the effect of splicing regulation on synonymous codon usage.

Results

Codon Bias Indices (CBI) in the 3' boundary regions were reduced compared to the rest of the exonic regions among 48 and 33 ASEs of exon 6 and 9 clusters, respectively. These regional differences in CBI were affected by splicing frequency and distance from adjacent exons. Synonymous divergence levels between the 3' boundary region and the remaining exonic region of exon 6 ASEs were similar. Additionally, another sensitive comparison of paralogous exonic regions in recently retrotransposed processed genes and their parental genes revealed that, in the former, the differences in CBI between what were formerly the central regions and the boundary regions gradually became smaller over time.

Conclusion

Analyses of the multiple ASEs of Dscam allowed direct tests of the effect of splice-related factors on synonymous codon usage and provided clear evidence that synonymous codon usage bias is restricted by exonic splicing signals near the intron-exon boundary. A similar synonymous divergence level between the different exonic regions suggests that the intensity of splice-related selection is generally weak and comparable to that of translational selection. Finally, the leveling off of differences in codon bias over time in retrotransposed genes meets the direct prediction of the tradeoff model that invokes conflict between translational superiority and splicing regulation, and strengthens the conclusions obtained from Dscam.