Isolation and Characterization of Functional Tripartite Group II Introns Using a Tn5-Based Genetic ScreenReport as inadecuate

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Group II introns are RNA enzymes that splice themselves from pre-mRNA transcripts. Most bacterial group II introns harbour an open reading frame ORF, coding for a protein with reverse transcriptase, maturase and occasionally DNA binding and endonuclease activities. Some ORF-containing group II introns were shown to be mobile retroelements that invade new DNA target sites. From an evolutionary perspective, group II introns are hypothesized to be the ancestors of the spliceosome-dependent nuclear introns and the small nuclear RNAs snRNAs – U1, U2, U4, U5 and U6 that are important functional elements of the spliceosome machinery. The ability of some group II introns fragmented in two or three pieces to assemble and undergo splicing in trans supports the theory that spliceosomal snRNAs evolved from portions of group II introns.

Methodology-Principal Findings

We used a transposon-based genetic screen to explore the ability of the Ll.LtrB group II intron from the Gram-positive bacterium Lactococcus lactis to be fragmented into three pieces in vivo. Trans-splicing tripartite variants of Ll.LtrB were selected using a highly efficient and sensitive trans-splicing-conjugation screen. We report that numerous fragmentation sites located throughout Ll.LtrB support tripartite trans-splicing, showing that this intron is remarkably tolerant to fragmentation.


This work unveils the great versatility of group II intron fragments to assemble and accurately trans-splice their flanking exons in vivo. The selected introns represent the first evidence of functional tripartite group II introns in bacteria and provide experimental support for the proposed evolutionary relationship between group II introns and snRNAs.

Author: Christine Ritlop, Caroline Monat, Benoit Cousineau



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