Splicing-related features of introns serve to propel evolution.

PloS one

PubMedID: 23516505

Luo Y, Li C, Gong X, Wang Y, Zhang K, Cui Y, Sun YE, Li S. Splicing-related features of introns serve to propel evolution. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(3):e58547.
The role of spliceosomal intronic structures played in evolution has only begun to be elucidated. Comparative genomic analyses of fungal snoRNA sequences, which are often contained within introns and/or exons, revealed that about one-third of snoRNA-associated introns in three major snoRNA gene clusters manifested polymorphisms, likely resulting from intron loss and gain events during fungi evolution. Genomic deletions can clearly be observed as one mechanism underlying intron and exon loss, as well as generation of complex introns where several introns lie in juxtaposition without intercalating exons. Strikingly, by tracking conserved snoRNAs in introns, we found that some introns had moved from one position to another by excision from donor sites and insertion into target sties elsewhere in the genome without needing transposon structures. This study revealed the origin of many newly gained introns. Moreover, our analyses suggested that intron-containing sequences were more prone to sustainable structural changes than DNA sequences without introns due to intron's ability to jump within the genome via unknown mechanisms. We propose that splicing-related structural features of introns serve as an additional motor to propel evolution.