RNA splicing, and variations in this process referred to as alternative splicing, are critical aspects of gene regulation in eukaryotes. From environmental responses in plants to being a primary link between genetic variation and disease in humans, splicing differences confer extensive phenotypic changes across diverse organisms1–3. Current approaches for analysing splicing rely on quantifying variant transcripts (i.e., isoforms) or splicing events (i.e., intron retention, exon skipping etc)4, 5. However, regulation of splicing occurs at the level of selection of individual splice sites, which results in variation in the abundance of isoforms and/or splicing events. Here, we present a simple approach to quantify the strength of individual splice sites, which determines their selection in a splicing reaction. Splice-site strength, as a quantitative phenotype, allows us to analyse splicing precisely in unprecedented ways. We demonstrate the power of this approach in defining the genomic determinants of the strength of individual splice-sites through GWAS. Our pilot-GWAS with more than thousand splice sites hints that cis-sequence divergence and competition between splice-sites and are among the primary determinants of variation in splicing among natural accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana. This approach allows deciphering the principles of splicing, which in turn has implications that range from agriculture to medicine.
- alternative splicing
- Arabidopsis thaliana
- genome-wide association studies