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In primary transcripts of eukaryotic nuclear genes, coding sequences are often interrupted by U2-type introns. Such intervening sequences can constitute complex introns excised by consecutive splicing reactions. The origin of spliceosomal introns is a vexing problem. Sequence variation existent across fungal taxa provides means to study their structure and evolution. In one class of complex introns called [D] stwintrons, an (internal) U2 intron is nested within the 5'-donor element of another (external) U2 intron. In the gene for a reticulon-like protein in species of the ascomycete yeast genus Lipomyces, the most 5' terminal intron position is occupied by one of three complex intervening sequences consistent of differently nested U2 intron units, as demonstrated in L. lipofer, L. suomiensis, and L. starkeyi. In L. starkeyi, the donor elements of the constituent introns are abutting and the complex intervening sequence can be excised alternatively either with one standard splicing reaction or, as a [D] stwintron, by two consecutive reactions. Our work suggests how [D] stwintrons could emerge by the appearance of new functional splice sites within an extant intron. The stepwise stwintronisation mechanism may involve duplication of the functional intron donor element of the ancestor intron.


Norbert Ág, Napsugár Kavalecz, Fruzsina Pénzes, Levente Karaffa, Claudio Scazzocchio, Michel Flipphi, Erzsébet Fekete. Complex intron generation in the yeast genus Lipomyces. Scientific reports. 2020 Apr 07;10(1):6022

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PMID: 32265493

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