[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans and its relatives are unique among animals in having operons. Operons are regulated multigene transcription units, in which polycistronic pre-messenger RNA (pre-mRNA coding for multiple peptides) is processed to monocistronic mRNAs. This occurs by 3' end formation and trans-splicing using the specialized SL2 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle for downstream mRNAs. Previously, the correlation between downstream location in an operon and SL2 trans-splicing has been strong, but anecdotal. Although only 28 operons have been reported, the complete sequence of the C. elegans genome reveals numerous gene clusters. To determine how many of these clusters represent operons, we probed full-genome microarrays for SL2-containing mRNAs. We found significant enrichment for about 1,200 genes, including most of a group of several hundred genes represented by complementary DNAs that contain SL2 sequence. Analysis of their genomic arrangements indicates that >90% are downstream genes, falling in 790 distinct operons. Our evidence indicates that the genome contains at least 1,000 operons, 2 8 genes long, that contain about 15% of all C. elegans genes. Numerous examples of co-transcription of genes encoding functionally related proteins are evident. Inspection of the operon list should reveal previously unknown functional relationships.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The genomes of most eukaryotes are composed of genes arranged on the chromosomes without regard to function, with each gene
transcribed from a promoter at its 5′ end. However, the genome of the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans contains numerous polycistronic clusters similar to bacterial operons in which the genes are transcribed sequentially from
a single promoter at the 5′ end of the cluster. The resulting polycistronic pre-mRNAs are processed into monocistronic mRNAs
by conventional 3′ end formation, cleavage, and polyadenylation, accompanied by trans-splicing with a specialized spliced
leader (SL), SL2. To determine whether this mode of gene organization and expression, apparently unique among the animals,
occurs in other species, we have investigated genes in a distantly related free-living rhabditid nematode in the genus Dolichorhabditis (strain CEW1). We have identified both SL1 and SL2 RNAs in this species. In addition, we have sequenced a Dolichorhabditis genomic region containing a gene cluster with all of the characteristics of the C. elegans operons. We show that the downstream gene is trans-spliced to SL2. We also present evidence that suggests that these two
genes are also clustered in the C. elegans and Caenorhabditis briggsae genomes. Thus, it appears that the arrangement of genes in operons pre-dates the divergence of the genus Caenorhabditis from the other genera in the family Rhabditidae, and may be more widespread than is currently appreciated.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/1997; 94(18):9751-9756. DOI:10.1073/pnas.94.18.9751 · 9.67 Impact Factor