We are delighted that our results showing the central role of alternative splicing as a predictor of organism complexity has been published in the journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution. This was fantastic news and rewards the titanic efforts of all of the students involved in this work over the last four years to analyse over a 100 genomes.
In the paper we present the first clear evidence yet for a strong association between alternative splicing and organism complexity measured as number of distinct cell types across the eukaryotic tree of life.
Alternative splicing is a process during gene expression which allows a single gene to generate more than one type of protein. This process is immensely important and has been shown to ply a key role in development and many other processes. However, comparative analyses on the prevalence of alternative splicing and its relationship with complexity had proven inconclusive because of a strong bias in the detection of alternative splicing due to differences in transcript coverage.
After overcoming this bias we show that not only alternative splicing is a strong predictor of complexity but that in fact, alternative splicing is the best predictor of complexity when compared against all other gene features previously associated with complexity.
Whether the observed link is causal, though, remains a mystery as it is possible that higher splicing is simply a marker of complexity rather than its cause.