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Title: Where the minor things are: a pan-eukaryotic survey suggests neutral processes may explain much of minor intron evolution

Spliceosomal introns are gene segments removed from RNA transcripts by ribonucleoprotein machineries called spliceosomes. In some eukaryotes a second ‘minor’ spliceosome is responsible for processing a tiny minority of introns. Despite its seemingly modest role, minor splicing has persisted for roughly 1.5 billion years of eukaryotic evolution. Identifying minor introns in over 3000 eukaryotic genomes, we report diverse evolutionary histories including surprisingly high numbers in some fungi and green algae, repeated loss, as well as general biases in their positional and genic distributions. We estimate that ancestral minor intron densities were comparable to those of vertebrates, suggesting a trend of long-term stasis. Finally, three findings suggest a major role for neutral processes in minor intron evolution. First, highly similar patterns of minor and major intron evolution contrast with both functionalist and deleterious model predictions. Second, observed functional biases among minor intron-containing genes are largely explained by these genes’ greater ages. Third, no association of intron splicing with cell proliferation in a minor intron-rich fungus suggests that regulatory roles are lineage-specific and thus cannot offer a general explanation for minor splicing’s persistence. These data constitute the most comprehensive view of minor introns and their evolutionary history to date, and provide a foundation for future studies of these remarkable genetic elements.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nucleic Acids Research
Medium: X Size: p. 10884-10908
["p. 10884-10908"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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