Is spliced-leader (SL) trans-splicing an ancestral eukaryotic characteristic that has been lost in multiple lineages, or did it arise independently in the various phyla in which it occurs? Recent studies have discovered SL trans-splicing in new metazoan phyla, including the chordates. Its discovery in chordates identifies, for the first time, a phylum that clearly contains both trans-splicing and non-trans-splicing major groups, and defines a limited and well-understood field in which to study the evolutionary dynamics of SL trans-splicing. In this article, I summarize the evolutionarily relevant aspects of SL trans-splicing and consider the interplay among SL trans-splicing, pre-mRNA splice-signal syntax and evolutionary genomics. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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