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Statistics of Exon Lengths in Animals, Plants, Fungi, and Protists

Authors: Alexander Kaplunovsky, Vladimir Khailenko, Alexander Bolshoy, Shara Atambayeva, AnatoliyIvashchenko


Eukaryotic protein-coding genes are interrupted by spliceosomal introns, which are removed from the RNA transcripts before translation into a protein. The exon-intron structures of different eukaryotic species are quite different from each other, and the evolution of such structures raises many questions. We try to address some of these questions using statistical analysis of whole genomes. We go through all the protein-coding genes in a genome and study correlations between the net length of all the exons in a gene, the number of the exons, and the average length of an exon. We also take average values of these features for each chromosome and study correlations between those averages on the chromosomal level. Our data show universal features of exon-intron structures common to animals, plants, and protists (specifically, Arabidopsis thaliana, Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, Cryptococcus neoformans, Homo sapiens, Mus musculus, Oryza sativa, and Plasmodium falciparum). We have verified linear correlation between the number of exons in a gene and the length of a protein coded by the gene, while the protein length increases in proportion to the number of exons. On the other hand, the average length of an exon always decreases with the number of exons. Finally, chromosome clustering based on average chromosome properties and parameters of linear regression between the number of exons in a gene and the net length of those exons demonstrates that these average chromosome properties are genome-specific features.

Keywords: Comparative genomics, exon-intron structure, eukaryotic clustering, linear regression.

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