How did alternative splicing evolve?

Nat Rev Genet. 2004 Oct;5(10):773-82. doi: 10.1038/nrg1451.


Alternative splicing creates transcriptome diversification, possibly leading to speciation. A large fraction of the protein-coding genes of multicellular organisms are alternatively spliced, although no regulated splicing has been detected in unicellular eukaryotes such as yeasts. A comparative analysis of unicellular and multicellular eukaryotic 5' splice sites has revealed important differences - the plasticity of the 5' splice sites of multicellular eukaryotes means that these sites can be used in both constitutive and alternative splicing, and for the regulation of the inclusion/skipping ratio in alternative splicing. So, alternative splicing might have originated as a result of relaxation of the 5' splice site recognition in organisms that originally could support only constitutive splicing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing / genetics*
  • Base Pairing / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Introns / genetics
  • Models, Genetic*
  • RNA Splice Sites / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*


  • RNA Splice Sites
  • RNA, Messenger