Pre-RNA splicing is an essential step in generating mature mRNA. RNA trans-splicing combines two separate pre-mRNA molecules to form a chimeric non-co-linear RNA, which may exert a function distinct from its original molecules. Trans-spliced RNAs may encode novel proteins or serve as noncoding or regulatory RNAs. These novel RNAs not only increase the complexity of the proteome but also provide new regulatory mechanisms for gene expression. An increasing amount of evidence indicates that trans-splicing occurs frequently in both physiological and pathological processes. In addition, mRNA reprogramming based on trans-splicing has been successfully applied in RNA-based therapies for human genetic diseases. Nevertheless, clarifying the extent and evolution of trans-splicing in vertebrates and developing detection methods for trans-splicing remain challenging. In this review, we summarize previous research, highlight recent advances in trans-splicing, and discuss possible splicing mechanisms and functions from an evolutionary viewpoint.
Keywords: RNAs; evolution; functions; trans-splicing; vertebrates.
© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.