Mutually exclusive splicing of alpha-tropomyosin exons enforced by an unusual lariat branch point location: implications for constitutive splicing.Cell. 1989 Mar 10; 56(5):749-58.Cell
Alternative splicing of alpha-tropomyosin pre-mRNA involves mutually exclusive utilization of exons 2 and 3, exon 3 being preferentially selected in most cells. This mutually exclusive behavior is enforced by absolute incompatibility between the adjacent splice sites of the two exons, due to close proximity of the exon 3 branch point to exon 2. The branch point, with an associated polypyrimidine tract, is in an unusual location, 177 nt upstream of the acceptor, only 42 nt from the exon 2 splice donor site. Splicing of exon 2 to 3 is consequently blocked prior to formation of an active spliceosome complex. This block to splicing can be relieved by insertion of spacer elements that increase the donor site-branch point separation to 51-59 nt. The unconventional relative location of the constitutive cis splicing elements therefore provides a simple mechanistic basis for strict mutually exclusive splicing. These results not only demonstrate that the branch point is not specified by proximity to the splice acceptor site, but rather suggest that it is the acceptor site which is specified relative to the branch point.