Alternative splicing (AS) and gene duplication (GD) both are processes that diversify the protein repertoire. Recent examples have shown that sequence changes introduced by AS may be comparable to those introduced by GD. In addition, the two processes are inversely correlated at the genomic scale: large gene families are depleted in splice variants and vice versa. All together, these data strongly suggest that both phenomena result in interchangeability between their effects. Here, we tested the extent to which this applies with respect to various protein characteristics. The amounts of AS and GD per gene are anticorrelated even when accounting for different gene functions or degrees of sequence divergence. In contrast, the two processes appear to be independent in their influence on variation in mRNA expression. Further, we conducted a detailed comparison of the effect of sequence changes in both alternative splice variants and gene duplicates on protein structure, in particular the size, location, and types of sequence substitutions and insertions/deletions. We find that, in general, alternative splicing affects protein sequence and structure in a more drastic way than gene duplication and subsequent divergence. Our results reveal an interesting paradox between the anticorrelation of AS and GD at the genomic level, and their impact at the protein level, which shows little or no equivalence in terms of effects on protein sequence, structure, and function. We discuss possible explanations that relate to the order of appearance of AS and GD in a gene family, and to the selection pressure imposed by the environment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics