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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Fast rate of evolution in alternatively spliced coding regions of mammalian genes

Ekaterina O Ermakova12*, Ramil N Nurtdinov1 and Mikhail S Gelfand12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics, Moscow State University, Vorob'evy gory, 1-73, 119992, Moscow, Russia

2 Research and Training Center "Bioinformatics", Institute for Information Transmission Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences, Bolshoi Karetny per. 19, 127994, Moscow, Russia

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BMC Genomics 2006, 7:84  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-7-84

Published: 18 April 2006



At least half of mammalian genes are alternatively spliced. Alternative isoforms are often genome-specific and it has been suggested that alternative splicing is one of the major mechanisms for generating protein diversity in the course of evolution. Another way of looking at alternative splicing is to consider sequence evolution of constitutive and alternative regions of protein-coding genes. Indeed, it turns out that constitutive and alternative regions evolve in different ways.


A set of 3029 orthologous pairs of human and mouse alternatively spliced genes was considered. The rate of nonsynonymous substitutions (dN), the rate of synonymous substitutions (dS), and their ratio (ω = dN/dS) appear to be significantly higher in alternatively spliced coding regions compared to constitutive regions. When N-terminal, internal and C-terminal alternatives are analysed separately, C-terminal alternatives appear to make the main contribution to the observed difference. The effects become even more pronounced in a subset of fast evolving genes.


These results provide evidence of weaker purifying selection and/or stronger positive selection in alternative regions and thus one more confirmation of accelerated evolution in alternative regions. This study corroborates the theory that alternative splicing serves as a testing ground for molecular evolution.