The multiplicity of alternative splicing decisions in Caenorhabditis elegans is linked to specific intronic regulatory motifs and minisatellites
Department of Biology, University of Fribourg, Chemin du Musée 10, 1700 Fribourg, Switzerland
BMC Genomics 2014, 15:364 doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-364Published: 14 May 2014
Alternative splicing diversifies the pool of messenger RNA molecules encoded by individual genes. This diversity is particularly high when multiple splicing decisions cause a combinatorial arrangement of several alternate exons. We know very little on how the multiple decisions occurring during the maturation of single transcripts are coordinated and whether specific sequence elements might be involved.
Here, the Caenorhabditis elegans genome was surveyed in order to identify sequence elements that might play a specific role in the regulation of multiple splicing decisions. The introns flanking alternate exons in transcripts whose maturation involves multiple alternative splicing decisions were compared to those whose maturation involves a single decision. Fifty-eight penta-, hexa-, and hepta-meric elements, clustered in 17 groups, were significantly over-represented in genes subject to multiple alternative splicing decisions. Most of these motifs relate to known splicing regulatory elements and appear to be well conserved in the related species Caenorhabditis briggsae. The usage of specific motifs is not linked to the gene product function, but rather depends on the gene structure, since it is influenced by the distance separating the multiple splicing decision sites. Two of these motifs are part of the CeRep25B minisatellite, which is also over-represented at the vicinity of alternative splicing regions. Most of the remaining motifs are not part of repeated sequence elements, but tend to occur in specific heterologous pairs in genes subject to multiple alternative splicing decisions.
The existence of specific intronic sequence elements linked to multiple alternative splicing decisions is intriguing and suggests that these elements might have some specialized regulatory role during splicing.