, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 278-294

Regulation of alternative RNA splicing by exon definition and exon sequences in viral and mammalian gene expression

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Abstract

Intron removal from a pre-mRNA by RNA splicing was once thought to be controlled mainly by intron splicing signals. However, viral and other eukaryotic RNA exon sequences have recently been found to regulate RNA splicing, polyadenylation, export, and nonsense-mediated RNA decay in addition to their coding function. Regulation of alternative RNA splicing by exon sequences is largely attributable to the presence of two majorcis-acting elements in the regulated exons, the exonic splicing enhancer (ESE) and the suppressor or silencer (ESS). Two types of ESEs have been verified from more than 50 genes or exons: purine-rich ESEs, which are the more common, and non-purine-rich ESEs. In contrast, the sequences of ESSs identified in approximately 20 genes or exons are highly diverse and show little similarity to each other. Through interactions with cellular splicing factors, an ESE or ESS determines whether or not a regulated splice site, usually an upstream 3′ splice site, will be used for RNA splicing. However, how these elements function precisely in selecting a regulated splice site is only partially understood. The balance between positive and negative regulation of splice site selection likely depends on thecis-element's identity and changes in cellular splicing factors under physiological or pathological conditions.