Four exons of the serotonin receptor 4 gene are associated with multiple distant branch points.
Hallegger M., Sobala A., Smith CWJ.
Splicing of vertebrate introns involves recognition of three consensus elements at the 3' end. The branch point (BP) and polypyrimidine tract (PPT) are usually located within 40 nucleotides (nt) of the 3' splice site (3' ss), AG, but can be much more distant. A characteristic of the region between distant BPs (dBPs) and the 3' ss is the absence of intervening AG dinucleotides, leading to its designation as the "AG exclusion zone" (AGEZ). The human HTR4 gene, which encodes serotonin receptor 4 and has been associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disease, and gastrointestinal disorders, has four exons with extensive AGEZs. We have mapped the BPs for HTR4 exons 3, 4, 5, and g generated by in vitro splicing, and validated them by mutagenesis in exon-trapping vectors. All exons used dBPs up to 273 nt upstream of the exon. Strikingly, exons 4 and 5 used combinations of both distant and conventionally located BPs, suggesting that successful splicing of these exons can occur by distinct pathways. Our results emphasize the importance for single nucleotide polymorphism resequencing projects to take account of potential dBPs, as the extended AGEZs are vulnerable to mutations that could affect splicing itself or regulation of alternative splicing.