An evolutionary mechanism for the generation of competing RNA structures associated with mutually exclusive exons

Timofei M. Ivanov, Dmitri D. Pervouchine

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Alternative splicing is a commonly-used mechanism of diversifying gene products. Mutually exclusive exons (MXE) represent a particular type of alternative splicing, in which one and only one exon from an array is included in the mature RNA. A number of genes with MXE do so by using a mechanism that depends on RNA structure. Transcripts of these genes contain multiple sites called selector sequences that are all complementary to a regulatory element called the docking site; only one of the competing base pairings can form at a time, which exposes one exon from the cluster to the spliceosome. MXE tend to have similar lengths and sequence content and are believed to originate through tandem genomic duplications. Here, we report that pre-mRNAs of this class of exons have an increased capacity to fold into competing secondary structures. We propose an evolutionary mechanism for the generation of such structures via duplications that affect not only exons, but also their adjacent introns with stem-loop structures. If one of the two arms of a stem-loop is duplicated, it will generate two selector sequences that compete for the same docking site, a pattern that is associated with MXE splicing. A similar partial duplication of two independent stem-loops produces a pattern that is consistent with the so-called bidirectional pairing model. These models explain why tandem exon duplications frequently result in mutually exclusive splicing.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number356
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2018


    • Alternative splicing
    • Bidirectional control
    • Competing structures
    • Dscam
    • Duplication
    • Evolution
    • Long-range
    • Mutually exclusive exons
    • Rna structure
    • Srp


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