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  1. Abstract

    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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  2. Abstract During nuclear maturation of most eukaryotic pre-messenger RNAs and long non-coding RNAs, introns are removed through the process of RNA splicing. Different classes of introns are excised by the U2-type or the U12-type spliceosomes, large complexes of small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particles and associated proteins. We created intronIC, a program for assigning intron class to all introns in a given genome, and used it on 24 eukaryotic genomes to create the Intron Annotation and Orthology Database (IAOD). We then used the data in the IAOD to revisit several hypotheses concerning the evolution of the two classes of spliceosomal introns, finding support for the class conversion model explaining the low abundance of U12-type introns in modern genomes. 
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