Statistical analysis of vertebrate sequences reveals that long genes are scarce in GC-rich isochores

J Mol Evol. 1995 Mar;40(3):308-17. doi: 10.1007/BF00163235.


We compared the exon/intron organization of vertebrate genes belonging to different isochore classes, as predicted by their GC content at third codon position. Two main features have emerged from the analysis of sequences published in GenBank: (1) genes coding for long proteins (i.e., > or = 500 aa) are almost two times more frequent in GC-poor than in GC-rich isochores; (2) intervening sequences (= sum of introns) are on average three times longer in GC-poor than in GC-rich isochores. These patterns are observed among human, mouse, rat, cow, and even chicken genes and are therefore likely to be common to all warm-blooded vertebrates. Analysis of Xenopus sequences suggests that the same patterns exist in cold-blooded vertebrates. It could be argued that such results do not reflect the reality because sequence databases are not representative of entire genomes. However, analysis of biases in GenBank revealed that the observed discrepancies between GC-rich and GC-poor isochores are not artifactual, and are probably largely underestimated. We investigated the distribution of microsatellites and interspersed repeats in introns of human and mouse genes from different isochores. This analysis confirmed previous studies showing that L1 repeats are almost absent from GC-rich isochores. Microsatellites and SINES (Alu, B1, B2) are found at roughly equal frequencies in introns from all isochore classes. Globally, the presence of repeated sequences does not account for the increased intron length in GC-poor isochores. The relationships between gene structure and global genome organization and evolution are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Composition
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Genes*
  • Humans
  • Introns
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Vertebrates / genetics*


  • DNA, Complementary