In an article published in the journal RNA  , Karan Bedi, a bioinformatician in Mats Ljungman’s lab, Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School, investigated the efficiency of splicing across different human cell types. The results were surprising in that the splicing process appears to be quite inefficient, leaving most intronic sequences untouched as the transcripts are being synthesized. The study also reports variable patterns between the different introns within a gene and across cell lines, and it further highlights the complexity of how newly transcripts are processed into mature mRNAs.
Several processes take place to produce mature mRNAs that then can be exported to the cytoplasm and used as a template for protein synthesis. After initiation of transcription and the go-ahead of elongation to produce the pre-mRNA, introns need to be spliced out and the protein-coding exons connected. At first, pre-mRNA is made as a complementary sequence of the DNA but with slightly different chemistry and includes all the introns. Then the spliceosome machinery, made up of about 300 proteins, assembles “co-transcriptionally” at each intron junction as the RNA emerges from its synthesis. “Splicing is an incredibly complex process because of the great number of proteins involved that repeatedly need to assemble and disassemble at each junction. Also, the speed at which transcription generates RNA is quite fast so the splicing process has to be well organized. Many steps can go wrong and lead to various pathologies, which is why it is so important to have a better understanding of how splicing happens and how it is regulated,” said Bedi.
Photo: Karan Bedi explains the complex data analysis pipeline. Professor Ljungman is on the left – credit: Elisabeth Paymal