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Nucleic Acids Res. 1999 August 1; 27(15): 3219–3228.
PMCID: PMC148551

Intron-exon structures of eukaryotic model organisms.


To investigate the distribution of intron-exon structures of eukaryotic genes, we have constructed a general exon database comprising all available intron-containing genes and exon databases from 10 eukaryotic model organisms: Homo sapiens, Mus musculus, Gallus gallus, Rattus norvegicus, Arabidopsis thaliana, Zea mays, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Aspergillus, Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila. We purged redundant genes to avoid the possible bias brought about by redundancy in the databases. After discarding those questionable introns that do not contain correct splice sites, the final database contained 17 102 introns, 21 019 exons and 2903 independent or quasi-independent genes. On average, a eukaryotic gene contains 3.7 introns per kb protein coding region. The exon distribution peaks around 30-40 residues and most introns are 40-125 nt long. The variable intron-exon structures of the 10 model organisms reveal two interesting statistical phenomena, which cast light on some previous speculations. (i) Genome size seems to be correlated with total intron length per gene. For example, invertebrate introns are smaller than those of human genes, while yeast introns are shorter than invertebrate introns. However, this correlation is weak, suggesting that other factors besides genome size may also affect intron size. (ii) Introns smaller than 50 nt are significantly less frequent than longer introns, possibly resulting from a minimum intron size requirement for intron splicing.

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