PLANT SCIENCES

Splicing Shifts

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Science  13 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6078, pp. 133
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6078.133-b

Alternative splicing, which affects about 40% of intron-containing genes in Arabidopsis, is a mechanism whereby mRNA transcripts are adjusted in ways that affect the function or stability of the mRNA or the structure of the translated protein. The circadian clock is also an important regulator of many genes in the plant genome. James et al. have now analyzed the intersection of these two complex phenomena, and discovered even more complexity. Although the period of the Arabidopsis circadian clock is rather stable over a range of temperatures, the clock does respond to temperature: Low temperatures can cause a stall, and temperature cycles can entrain the clock. The authors analyzed the handful of core clock genes and found extensive alternative splicing among these transcripts. The splicing events changed in response to temperature, often in surprising ways. For example, transcripts encoding proteins thought to have redundant functions showed divergent splicing patterns in response to temperature shifts. Thus, models of circadian clock function should incorporate the added complexity of alternative mRNA splice variants that are modulated by temperature shifts and acclimations.

Plant Cell 24, 10.1105/tpc.111.093948 (2012).

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