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Monday, April 01, 2019

The frequency of splicing errors reflects the balance between selection and drift

Splice variants are very common in eukaryotes. We know that it's possible to detect dozens of different splice variants for each gene with multiple introns. In the past, these variants were thought to be examples of differential regulation by alternative spicing but we now know that most of them are due to splicing errors. Most of the variants have been removed from the sequence databases but many remain and they are annotated as examples of alternative splicing, which implies that they have a biological function.

I have blogged about splice variants many times, noting that alternative splicing is a very real phenomenon but it's probably restricted to just a small percentage of genes. Most of splice variants that remain in the databases are probably due to splicing errors. They are junk RNA [The persistent myth of alternative splicing].

The ongoing controversy over the origin of splice variants is beginning to attract attention in the scientific literature although it's fair to say that most scientists are still unaware of the controversy. They continue to believe that abundant alternative splicing is a real phenomenon and they don't realize that the data is more compatible with abundant splicing errors.

Some molecular evolution labs have become interested in the controversy and have devised tests of the two possibilities. I draw your attention to a paper that was published 18 months ago.