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The coupling of alternative splicing and nonsense-mediated mRNA decay


Most human genes exhibit alternative splicing, but not all alternatively spliced transcripts produce functional proteins. Computational and experimental results indicate that a substantial fraction of alternative splicing events in humans result in mRNA isoforms that harbor a premature termination codon (PTC). These transcripts are predicted to be degraded by the nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) pathway. One explanation for the abundance of PTC-containing isoforms is that they represent splicing errors that are identified and degraded by the NMD pathway. Another potential explanation for this startling observation is that cells may link alternative splicing and NMD to regulate the abundance of mRNA transcripts. This mechanism, which we call "Regulated Unproductive Splicing and Translation" (RUST), has been experimentally shown to regulate expression of a wide variety of genes in many organisms from yeast to human. It is frequently employed for autoregulation of proteins that affect the splicing process itself. Thus, alternative splicing and NMD act together to play an important role in regulating gene expression.

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