How complex an intron may be? The example of the first intron of the CTP synthase gene of Drosophila melanogaster

Roberto Piergentili


In eukaryotes, maturation of primary transcripts into mature messenger RNAs involves the elimination of parts of the gene called ‘introns’. The biological significance of introns is not yet completely understood. It has been demonstrated that introns may contain other genes, or regulatory sequences that may be involved in transcriptional control, or also being involved in alternative splicing mechanisms. However, these functions explain the role of only a small number of them, and it is very difficult to formulate any generalization. The CTP synthase gene of Drosophila melanogaster is characterized by the presence of a long first intron (approximately 7.2 kilobases) whose role is currently unknown. In the present report we analyzed in silico the content of this intron, and found that it contains at least three interesting sub-sequences. Two of them are homologous to the CTP synthase itself and to a putative nucleotide pyrophosphatase, respectively. The third is a short stretch of DNA able to fold into a thermodynamically stable hairpin and showing homology with other 19 sequences from 21 genes inside the D. melanogaster genome. These findings suggest a complex yet very accurate way of controlling gene expression inside the fruit fly.


small interfering RNA; antisense RNA; nucleotide pool; CG6854; embryogenesis; neurogenesis


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