Alternative splicing during mammalian organ development


Alternative splicing (AS) is pervasive in mammalian genomes, yet cross-species comparisons have been largely restricted to adult tissues and the functionality of most AS events remains unclear. We assessed AS patterns across pre- and postnatal development of seven organs in six mammals and a bird. Our analyses revealed that developmentally dynamic AS events, which are especially prevalent in the brain, are substantially more conserved than nondynamic ones. Cassette exons with increasing inclusion frequencies during development show the strongest signals of conserved and regulated AS. Newly emerged cassette exons are typically incorporated late in testis development, but those retained during evolution are predominantly brain specific. Our work suggests that an intricate interplay of programs controlling gene expression levels and AS is fundamental to organ development, especially for the brain and heart. In these regulatory networks, AS affords substantial functional diversification of genes through the generation of tissue- and time-specific isoforms from broadly expressed genes.

Journal details

Journal Nature Genetics
Volume 53
Issue number 6
Pages 925-934
Available online
Publication date