Searching for splicing motifs

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;623:85-106. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-77374-2_6.


Intron removal during pre-mRNA splicing in higher eukaryotes requires the accurate identification of the two splice sites at the ends of the exons, or exon definition. The sequences constituting the splice sites provide insufficient information to distinguish true splice sites from the greater number of false splice sites that populate transcripts. Additional information used for exon recognition resides in a large number of positively or negatively acting elements that lie both within exons and in the adjacent introns. The identification of such sequence motifs has progressed rapidly in recent years, such that extensive lists are now available for exonic splicing enhancers and exonic splicing silencers. These motifs have been identified both by empirical experiments and by computational predictions, the validity of the latter being confirmed by experimental verification. Molecular searches have been carried out either by the selection of sequences that bind to splicing factors, or enhance or silence splicing in vitro or in vivo. Computational methods have focused on sequences of 6 or 8 nucleotides that are over- or under-represented in exons, compared to introns or transcripts that do not undergo splicing. These various methods have sought to provide global definitions of motifs, yet the motifs are distinctive to the method used for identification and display little overlap. Astonishingly, at least three-quarters of a typical mRNA would be comprised of these motifs. A present challenge lies in understanding how the cell integrates this surfeit of information to generate what is usually a binary splicing decision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exons / genetics
  • Humans
  • Introns / genetics
  • RNA Splice Sites / genetics*
  • RNA Splice Sites / physiology
  • RNA Splicing / genetics*
  • Silencer Elements, Transcriptional


  • RNA Splice Sites