Evaluation of Models of the Mechanisms Underlying Intron Loss and Gain in Aspergillus Fungi
Although intron loss and gain have been widely observed, their mechanisms are still to be determined. In four Aspergillus genomes, we found 204 cases of intron loss and 84 cases of intron gain. Using this data, we tested common hypotheses of intron loss or gain. Statistical analysis showed that adjacent introns tend to be lost simultaneously and small introns were preferentially lost, supporting the model of mRNA-mediated intron loss. The lost introns reside in internal regions of genes, which is inconsistent with the traditional version of the model (partial length cDNAs are reverse transcribed from 3′ ends of mRNAs), but consistent with an alternate version (partial length cDNAs are produced by self-primed reverse transcription). The latter version was not supported by examination of the abundance of T-rich segments in mRNAs. Preferential loss of internal introns might be explained by highly efficient recombination at internal regions of genes. Among the 84 cases of intron gain, we found a significantly higher frequency of short direct repeats near exon–intron boundary than in conserved introns, supporting the double-strand break repair model. We also found possible source sequences for two cases of intron gain, one by gene conversion and one by insertion of a mitochondrial sequence during double-strand break repair. Source sequences for most gained introns could not be identified and the possible reasons were discussed. In the four Aspergillus genomes studied, we did not find evidence of frequent parallel intron gains.
KeywordsAspergillus mRNA-mediated intron loss Parallel intron gain Orthologous genes Double-strand break repair Self-primed reverse transcription
We thank the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and Jian-Li Cao for his kind help. This work was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2009SAP-4) and the Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (NCET-07-0094).
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