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Intron Definition Is Required for Excision of the Minute Virus of Mice Small Intron and Definition of the Upstream Exon

  • Donald D. Haut
  • D. J. Pintel
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
Mar 01, 1998


Alternative splicing of pre-mRNAs plays a critical role in maximizing the coding capacity of the small parvovirus genome. The small-intron region of minute virus of mice (MVM) pre-mRNAs undergoes an unusual pattern of overlapping alternative splicing—using two donors (D1 and D2) and two acceptors (A1 and A2) within a region of 120 nucleotides—that determines the steady-state ratios of the various viral mRNAs. In this report, we show that the determinants that govern excision of the small intron are complex and are also required for efficient definition of the upstream exon. For the MVM small intron in its natural context, the two donors appear to compete for the splicing machinery: the position of D1 favors its usage, while the primary sequence of D2 must be more like the consensus sequence than is D1 to be used efficiently. We have genetically defined the branch points that are used for generation of the major and minor spliced forms and show that recognition of components of the small-intron acceptors is likely to be the dominant determinant in alternative small-intron excision. We have also identified a G-rich intronic enhancer sequence within the small intron that is essential for splicing of the minor form (D2 to A2) but not the major form (D1 to A1) of MVM mRNAs and is required for efficient definition of the upstream NS2-specific exon. In its natural context, the small intron appears to be excised by a mechanism consistent with intron definition. When the MVM small intron is expanded, various parameters of its excision are altered, indicating that critical cis-acting signals are context dependent. Relative use of the donors and acceptors is altered, and the upstream NS2-specific exon is no longer efficiently defined. The fact that definition of the upstream NS2-specific exon can be achieved by the MVM small intron in its natural context, but not when it is expanded, suggests that the multiple determinants that govern definition and excision of the small intron are required, in concert, for upstream exon definition. Our data are consistent with a model in which alternative splicing of the MVM P4-generated pre-mRNAs is governed by a hybrid of intron- and exon-defining mechanisms.

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