A compendium of conserved cleavage and polyadenylation events in mammalian genes

Genome Res. 2018 Oct;28(10):1427-1441. doi: 10.1101/gr.237826.118. Epub 2018 Aug 24.


Cleavage and polyadenylation is essential for 3' end processing of almost all eukaryotic mRNAs. Recent studies have shown widespread alternative cleavage and polyadenylation (APA) events leading to mRNA isoforms with different 3' UTRs and/or coding sequences. Here, we present a compendium of conserved cleavage and polyadenylation sites (PASs) in mammalian genes, based on approximately 1.2 billion 3' end sequencing reads from more than 360 human, mouse, and rat samples. We show that ∼80% of mammalian mRNA genes contain at least one conserved PAS, and ∼50% have conserved APA events. PAS conservation generally reduces promiscuous 3' end processing, stabilizing gene expression levels across species. Conservation of APA correlates with gene age, gene expression features, and gene functions. Genes with certain functions, such as cell morphology, cell proliferation, and mRNA metabolism, are particularly enriched with conserved APA events. Whereas tissue-specific genes typically have a low APA rate, brain-specific genes tend to evolve APA. In addition, we show enrichment of mRNA destabilizing motifs in alternative 3' UTR sequences, leading to substantial differences in mRNA stability between 3' UTR isoforms. Using conserved PASs, we reveal sequence motifs surrounding APA sites and a preference of adenosine at the cleavage site. Furthermore, we show that mutations of U-rich motifs around the PAS often accompany APA profile differences between species. Analysis of lncRNA PASs indicates a mechanism of PAS fixation through evolution of A-rich motifs. Taken together, our results present a comprehensive view of PAS evolution in mammals, and a phylogenic perspective on APA functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Animals
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Organ Specificity
  • Phylogeny
  • Polyadenylation
  • RNA Stability
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / chemistry
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods*
  • Species Specificity


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Messenger