Novel Intronic RNA Structures Contribute to Maintenance of Phenotype in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Katarzyna Hooks, Samina Naseeb, Steven Parker, Sam Griffiths-Jones, Daniela Delneri

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The Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome has undergone extensive intron loss during its evolutionary history. It has been suggested that the few remaining introns (in only 5% of protein-coding genes) are retained because of their impact on function under stress conditions. Here, we explore the possibility that novel noncoding RNA structures (ncRNAs) are embedded within intronic sequences and are contributing to phenotype and intron retention in yeast. We employed de novo RNA structure prediction tools to screen intronic sequences in S. cerevisiae and 36 other fungi. We identified and validated 19 new intronic RNAs via RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and RT-PCR. Contrary to the common belief that excised introns are rapidly degraded, we found that, in six cases, the excised introns were maintained intact in the cells. In another two cases we showed that the ncRNAs were further processed from their introns. RNA-seq analysis confirmed that introns in ribosomal protein genes are more highly expressed when they contain predicted RNA structures. We deleted the novel intronic RNA structure within the GLC7 intron and showed that this region, rather than the intron itself, is responsible for the cell's ability to respond to salt stress. We also showed a direct association between the in cis presence of the intronic RNA and GLC7 expression. Overall, these data support the notion that some introns may have been maintained in the genome because they harbor functional RNA structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1469-1481
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Early online date18 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal
  • Genome, Fungal
  • Introns
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Phosphatase 1
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Salts
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Journal Article


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