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Low complexity and homopolymer sequences within coding regions are known to evolve rapidly. While their expansion may be deleterious, there is increasing evidence for a functional role associated with these amino acid sequences. Homopolymer sequences are thought to evolve mostly through replication slippage and, therefore, they may be expected to be longer in regions with relaxed selective constraint. Within the coding sequences of eukaryotes, alternatively spliced exons are known to evolve under relaxed constraints in comparison to those exons that are constitutively spliced because they are not included in all of the mature mRNA of a gene. This relaxed exposure to selection leads to faster rates of evolution for alternatively spliced exons in comparison to constitutively spliced exons. Here, we have tested the effect of splicing on the structure (composition, length) of homopolymer sequences in relation to the splicing pattern in which they are found. We observed a significant relationship between alternative splicing and homopolymer sequences with alternatively spliced genes being enriched in number and length of homopolymer sequences. We also observed lower codon diversity and longer homocodons, suggesting a balance between slippage and point mutations linked to the constraints imposed by selection.

Original publication




Journal article


Genome Res

Publication Date





755 - 760


Alternative Splicing, Amino Acids, Animals, Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, Exons, Humans, Mice, Repetitive Sequences, Amino Acid, Zebrafish