The Linear Form of a Group II Intron Catalyzes Efficient Autocatalytic Reverse Splicing, Establishing a Potential for Mobility

RNA. 2009 Mar;15(3):473-82. doi: 10.1261/rna.1392009. Epub 2009 Jan 23.


Self-splicing group II introns catalyze their own excision from pre-RNAs, thereby joining the flanking exons. The introns can be released in a lariat or linear form. Lariat introns have been shown to reverse the splicing reaction; in contrast, linear introns are generally believed to perform no or only poor reverse splicing. Here, we show that a linear group II intron derived from ai5gamma can reverse the second step of splicing with unexpectedly high efficiency and precision. Moreover, the linear intron generates dramatically more reverse-splicing product than its lariat equivalent. The finding that linear group II introns can readily undergo the critical first step of mobility by catalyzing efficient reverse splicing into complementary target molecules demonstrates their innate potential for mobility and transposition and raises the possibility that reverse splicing by linear group II introns may have played a significant role in certain forms of intron mobility and lateral gene transfer during evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Interspersed Repetitive Sequences*
  • Introns*
  • Mutation
  • RNA Splicing*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, Self-Splicing / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, Self-Splicing