Systematic identification and characterization of exon-intron circRNAs

Genome Res. 2024 Apr 25;34(3):376-393. doi: 10.1101/gr.278590.123.


Exon-intron circRNAs (EIciRNAs) are a circRNA subclass with retained introns. Global features of EIciRNAs remain largely unexplored, mainly owing to the lack of bioinformatic tools. The regulation of intron retention (IR) in EIciRNAs and the associated functionality also require further investigation. We developed a framework, FEICP, which efficiently detected EIciRNAs from high-throughput sequencing (HTS) data. EIciRNAs are distinct from exonic circRNAs (EcircRNAs) in aspects such as with larger length, localization in the nucleus, high tissue specificity, and enrichment mostly in the brain. Deep learning analyses revealed that compared with regular introns, the retained introns of circRNAs (CIRs) are shorter in length, have weaker splice site strength, and have higher GC content. Compared with retained introns in linear RNAs (LIRs), CIRs are more likely to form secondary structures and show greater sequence conservation. CIRs are closer to the 5'-end, whereas LIRs are closer to the 3'-end of transcripts. EIciRNA-generating genes are more actively transcribed and associated with epigenetic marks of gene activation. Computational analyses and genome-wide CRISPR screening revealed that SRSF1 binds to CIRs and inhibits the biogenesis of most EIciRNAs. SRSF1 regulates the biogenesis of EIciLIMK1, which enhances the expression of LIMK1 in cis to boost neuronal differentiation, exemplifying EIciRNA physiological function. Overall, our study has developed the FEICP pipeline to identify EIciRNAs from HTS data, and reveals multiple features of CIRs and EIciRNAs. SRSF1 has been identified to regulate EIciRNA biogenesis. EIciRNAs and the regulation of EIciRNA biogenesis play critical roles in neuronal differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Exons*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Introns*
  • RNA, Circular* / genetics
  • RNA, Circular* / metabolism
  • Serine-Arginine Splicing Factors / genetics
  • Serine-Arginine Splicing Factors / metabolism


  • RNA, Circular
  • Serine-Arginine Splicing Factors