Native RNA sequencing in fission yeast reveals frequent alternative splicing isoforms

Genome Res. 2022 May 26;32(6):1215-1227. doi: 10.1101/gr.276516.121. Online ahead of print.


The unicellular yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe (fission yeast) retains many of the splicing features observed in humans and is thus an excellent model to study the basic mechanisms of splicing. Nearly half the genes contain introns, but the impact of alternative splicing in gene regulation and proteome diversification remains largely unexplored. Here we leverage Oxford Nanopore Technologies native RNA sequencing (dRNA), as well as ribosome profiling data, to uncover the full range of polyadenylated transcripts and translated open reading frames. We identify 332 alternative isoforms affecting the coding sequences of 262 different genes, 97 of which occur at frequencies higher than 20%, indicating that functional alternative splicing in S. pombe is more prevalent than previously suspected. Intron retention events make about 80% of the cases; these events may be involved in the regulation of gene expression and, in some cases, generate novel protein isoforms, as supported by ribosome profiling data in 18 of the intron retention isoforms. One example is the rpl22 gene, in which intron retention is associated with the translation of a protein of only 13 amino acids. We also find that lowly expressed transcripts tend to have longer poly(A) tails than highly expressed transcripts, highlighting an interdependence between poly(A) tail length and transcript expression level. Finally, we discover 214 novel transcripts that are not annotated, including 158 antisense transcripts, some of which also show translation evidence. The methodologies described in this work open new opportunities to study the regulation of splicing in a simple eukaryotic model.