Mechanistic insights into precursor messenger RNA splicing by the spliceosome

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2017 Nov;18(11):655-670. doi: 10.1038/nrm.2017.86. Epub 2017 Sep 27.


Precursor messenger RNA (pre-mRNA) splicing is an essential step in the flow of information from DNA to protein in all eukaryotes. Research over the past four decades has molecularly delineated the splicing pathway, including characterization of the detailed splicing reaction, definition of the spliceosome and identification of its components, and biochemical analysis of the various splicing complexes and their regulation. Structural information is central to mechanistic understanding of pre-mRNA splicing by the spliceosome. X-ray crystallography of the spliceosomal components and subcomplexes is complemented by electron microscopy of the intact spliceosome. In this Review, I discuss recent atomic-resolution structures of the intact spliceosome at different stages of the splicing cycle. These structures have provided considerable mechanistic insight into pre-mRNA splicing and have corroborated and explained a large body of genetic and biochemical data. Together, the structural data have proved that the spliceosome is a protein-directed metalloribozyme.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • RNA Precursors / chemistry*
  • RNA Precursors / genetics
  • RNA Precursors / metabolism
  • RNA Splicing / physiology*
  • RNA, Catalytic / chemistry*
  • RNA, Catalytic / genetics
  • RNA, Catalytic / metabolism
  • Spliceosomes / genetics
  • Spliceosomes / metabolism
  • Spliceosomes / ultrastructure*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • RNA Precursors
  • RNA, Catalytic