A study of alternative splicing in the pig

BMC Res Notes. 2010 May 5;3:123. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-3-123.


Background: Since at least half of the genes in mammalian genomes are subjected to alternative splicing, alternative pre-mRNA splicing plays an important contribution to the complexity of the mammalian proteome. Expressed sequence tags (ESTs) provide evidence of a great number of possible alternative isoforms. With the EST resource for the domestic pig now containing more than one million porcine ESTs, it is possible to identify alternative splice forms of the individual transcripts in this species from the EST data with some confidence.

Results: The pig EST data generated by the Sino-Danish Pig Genome project has been assembled with publicly available ESTs and made available in the PigEST database. Using the Distiller package 2,515 EST clusters with candidate alternative isoforms were identified in the EST data with high confidence. In agreement with general observations in human and mouse, we find putative splice variants in about 30% of the contigs with more than 50 ESTs. Based on the criteria that a minimum of two EST sequences confirmed each splice event, a list of 100 genes with the most distinct tissue-specific alternative splice events was generated from the list of candidates. To confirm the tissue specificity of the splice events, 10 genes with functional annotation were randomly selected from which 16 individual splice events were chosen for experimental verification by quantitative PCR (qPCR). Six genes were shown to have tissue specific alternatively spliced transcripts with expression patterns matching those of the EST data. The remaining four genes had tissue-restricted expression of alternative spliced transcripts. Five out of the 16 splice events that were experimentally verified were found to be putative pig specific.

Conclusions: In accordance with human and rodent studies we estimate that approximately 30% of the porcine genes undergo alternative splicing. We found a good correlation between EST predicted tissue-specificity and experimentally validated splice events in different porcine tissue. This study indicates that a cluster size of around 50 ESTs is optimal for in silico detection of alternative splicing. Although based on a limited number of splice events, the study supports the notion that alternative splicing could have an important impact on species differentiation since 31% of the splice events studied appears to be species specific.