Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027.
Exon sizes in vertebrate genes are, with a few exceptions, limited to less than 300 bases. It has been proposed that this limitation may derive from the exon definition model of splice site recognition. In this model, a downstream donor site enhances splicing at the upstream acceptor site of the same exon. This enhancement may require contact between factors bound to each end of the exon; an exon size limitation would promote such contact. To test the idea that proximity was required for exon definition, we inserted random DNA fragments from Escherichia coli into a central exon in a three-exon dihydrofolate reductase minigene and tested whether the expanded exons were efficiently spliced. DNA from a plasmid library of expanded minigenes was used to transfect a CHO cell deletion mutant lacking the dhfr locus. PCR analysis of DNA isolated from the pooled stable cotransfectant populations displayed a range of DNA insert sizes from 50 to 1,500 nucleotides. A parallel analysis of the RNA from this population by reverse transcription followed by PCR showed a similar size distribution. Central exons as large as 1,400 bases could be spliced into mRNA. We also tested individual plasmid clones containing exon inserts of defined sizes. The largest exon included in mRNA was 1,200 bases in length, well above the 300-base limit implied by the survey of naturally occurring exons. We conclude that a limitation in exon size is not part of the exon definition mechanism.
Lawrence Chasin's Home Page