Discovery and analysis of evolutionarily conserved intronic splicing regulatory elements

PLoS Genet. 2007 May 25;3(5):e85. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030085. Epub 2007 Apr 13.


Knowledge of the functional cis-regulatory elements that regulate constitutive and alternative pre-mRNA splicing is fundamental for biology and medicine. Here we undertook a genome-wide comparative genomics approach using available mammalian genomes to identify conserved intronic splicing regulatory elements (ISREs). Our approach yielded 314 ISREs, and insertions of ~70 ISREs between competing splice sites demonstrated that 84% of ISREs altered 5' and 94% altered 3' splice site choice in human cells. Consistent with our experiments, comparisons of ISREs to known splicing regulatory elements revealed that 40%-45% of ISREs might have dual roles as exonic splicing silencers. Supporting a role for ISREs in alternative splicing, we found that 30%-50% of ISREs were enriched near alternatively spliced (AS) exons, and included almost all known binding sites of tissue-specific alternative splicing factors. Further, we observed that genes harboring ISRE-proximal exons have biases for tissue expression and molecular functions that are ISRE-specific. Finally, we discovered that for Nova1, neuronal PTB, hnRNP C, and FOX1, the most frequently occurring ISRE proximal to an alternative conserved exon in the splicing factor strongly resembled its own known RNA binding site, suggesting a novel application of ISRE density and the propensity for splicing factors to auto-regulate to associate RNA binding sites to splicing factors. Our results demonstrate that ISREs are crucial building blocks in understanding general and tissue-specific AS regulation and the biological pathways and functions regulated by these AS events.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Conserved Sequence / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Exons / genetics
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Introns / genetics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Organ Specificity
  • RNA Splice Sites / genetics
  • RNA Splicing / genetics*
  • Regulatory Sequences, Ribonucleic Acid / genetics*


  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA Splice Sites
  • Regulatory Sequences, Ribonucleic Acid