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RNA-Seq analysis of splicing in Plasmodium falciparum uncovers new splice junctions, alternative splicing and splicing of antisense transcripts.

  • Author(s): Sorber, Katherine
  • Dimon, Michelle T
  • DeRisi, Joseph L
  • et al.

Over 50% of genes in Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest human malaria parasite, contain predicted introns, yet experimental characterization of splicing in this organism remains incomplete. We present here a transcriptome-wide characterization of intraerythrocytic splicing events, as captured by RNA-Seq data from four timepoints of a single highly synchronous culture. Gene model-independent analysis of these data in conjunction with publically available RNA-Seq data with HMMSplicer, an in-house developed splice site detection algorithm, revealed a total of 977 new 5' GU-AG 3' and 5 new 5' GC-AG 3' junctions absent from gene models and ESTs (11% increase to the current annotation). In addition, 310 alternative splicing events were detected in 254 (4.5%) genes, most of which truncate open reading frames. Splicing events antisense to gene models were also detected, revealing complex transcriptional arrangements within the parasite's transcriptome. Interestingly, antisense introns overlap sense introns more than would be expected by chance, perhaps indicating a functional relationship between overlapping transcripts or an inherent organizational property of the transcriptome. Independent experimental validation confirmed over 30 new antisense and alternative junctions. Thus, this largest assemblage of new and alternative splicing events to date in Plasmodium falciparum provides a more precise, dynamic view of the parasite's transcriptome.

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