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Keywords:

  • RNA-seq;
  • alternative splicing;
  • house mouse;
  • speciation

Abstract

Alternative splicing, the combination of different exons to produce a variety of transcripts from a single gene, contributes enormously to transcriptome diversity in mammals, and the majority of genes encode alternatively spliced products. Previous research comparing mouse, rat and human has shown that a significant proportion of splice forms are not conserved across species, suggesting that alternative transcripts are an important source of evolutionary novelty. Here, we studied the evolution of alternative splicing in the early stages of species divergence in the house mouse. We sequenced the testis transcriptomes of three Mus musculus subspecies and Mus spretus using Illumina technology. On the basis of a genome-wide analysis of read coverage differences among subspecies, we identified several hundred candidate alternatively spliced regions. We conservatively estimate that 6.5% of testis-expressed genes show alternative splice differences between at least one pair of M. musculus subspecies, a proportion slightly higher than the proportion of genes differentially expressed among subspecies. These results suggest that differences in both the structure and abundance of transcripts contribute to early transcriptome divergence.