More Recent Comments

Friday, March 29, 2019

Are multiple transcription start sites functional or mistakes?

If you look in the various databases you'll see that most human genes have multiple transcription start sites. The evidence for the existence of these variants is solid—they exist—but it's not clear whether the minor start sites are truly functional or whether they are just due to mistakes in transcription initiation. They are included in the databases because annotators are unable to distinguish between these possibilities.

Let's look at the entry for the human triosephosphate isomerase gene (TPI1; Gene ID 7167).

The correct mRNA is NM_0003655, third from the top. (Trust me on this!). The three other variants have different transcription start sites: two of them are upstream and one is downstream of the major site. Are these variants functional or are they simply transcription initiation errors? This is the same problem that we dealt with when we looked at splice variants. In that case I concluded that most splice variants are due to splicing errors and true alternative splicing is rare.