Mutually exclusive selection of one exon in a cluster of exons is a rare form of alternative pre-mRNA splicing, yet suggests strict regulation. However, the repertoires of regulation mechanisms for the mutually exclusive (ME) splicing in vivo are still unknown. Here, we experimentally explore putative ME exons in C. elegans to demonstrate that 29 ME exon clusters in 27 genes are actually selected in a mutually exclusive manner. Twenty-two of the clusters consist of homologous ME exons. Five clusters have too short intervening introns to be excised between the ME exons. Fidelity of ME splicing relies at least in part on nonsense-mediated mRNA decay for 14 clusters. These results thus characterize all the repertoires of ME splicing in this organism.
Keywords: NMD; alternative splicing; intron; mutually exclusive exons; pre-mRNA processing; proteome diversity.