We present evidence that a subset of mRNAs in the human parasitic trematode Schistosoma mansoni contain an identical 36-nucleotide spliced leader (SL) sequence at their 5' termini. The SL is derived from a 90-nucleotide nonpolyadenylylated RNA (SL RNA), presumably by trans-splicing. Neither the SL nor the SL RNA share significant sequence identity with previously described trans-spliced leaders and SL RNAs in trypanosomatid protozoans or nematodes. However, several features, such as predicted secondary structure, trimethylguanosine cap, and potential Sm binding site, suggest similarities among SL RNAs in widely divergent organisms. Our evidence also indicates that the exon 3 acceptor site of the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase gene can be spliced either to the SL by trans-splicing or to an upstream exon, 2, by cis-splicing. The presence of a SL sequence in S. mansoni, a member of the phylum Platyhelminthes, suggests that transplicing may be a common feature of other lower invertebrates.
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