Test of the combinatorial model of intron recognition in a native maize gene
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Previous studies have established that splice site selection and splicing efficiency in plants depend strongly on local compositional contrast consisting of high exon G+C content relative to high intron U content. The combinatorial model of plant intron recognition posits that splice site sequences as well as local intron and exon sequences contribute to splice site selection and splicing efficiency. Most of the previous studies used synthetic or chimeric constructs, often tested in heterologous hosts. To perform a more critical test of the combinatorial model in a native context, the single intron of the maize Bronze2 gene and its flanking exons were modified by site-directed mutagenesis. Splicing efficiency was tested in maize protoplasts. Results show that a higher U content in the flanking 5′ exon, whether close to or distant from the 5′ splice site, did not modify splicing efficiency. Decreasing exon G+C content dramatically impaired splicing. Increasing intron G+C content or decreasing intron U content adversely impacted splicing. In all constructs splicing occurred exclusively at the original 5′ and 3′ splice sites. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that exon G+C content and intron U content contribute separate but complementary aspects of intron definition in the native Bz2 transcript.
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