Mathematical modeling identifies potential gene structure determinants of co-transcriptional control of alternative pre-mRNA splicing

Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Nov 16;46(20):10598-10607. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky870.


The spliceosome catalyzes the removal of introns from pre-messenger RNA (mRNA) and subsequent pairing of exons with remarkable fidelity. Some exons are known to be skipped or included in the mature mRNA in a cell type- or context-dependent manner (cassette exons), thereby contributing to the diversification of the human proteome. Interestingly, splicing is initiated (and sometimes completed) co-transcriptionally. Here, we develop a kinetic mathematical modeling framework to investigate alternative co-transcriptional splicing (CTS) and, specifically, the control of cassette exons' inclusion. We show that when splicing is co-transcriptional, default splice patterns of exon inclusion are more likely than when splicing is post-transcriptional, and that certain exons are more likely to be regulatable (i.e. cassette exons) than others, based on the exon-intron structure context. For such regulatable exons, transcriptional elongation rates may affect splicing outcomes. Within the CTS paradigm, we examine previously described hypotheses of co-operativity between splice sites of short introns (i.e. 'intron definition') or across short exons (i.e. 'exon definition'), and find that models encoding these faithfully recapitulate observations in the fly and human genomes, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosome Structures / genetics
  • Computational Biology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / genetics*
  • Genes
  • Humans
  • Markov Chains
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • RNA Precursors / genetics*
  • RNA Splice Sites / genetics*
  • RNA Splicing / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods
  • Spliceosomes / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics


  • RNA Precursors
  • RNA Splice Sites
  • RNA, Messenger