Hypothesis | Published:

Introns and the origin of nucleus–cytosol compartmentalization

Nature volume 440, pages 4145 (02 March 2006) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The origin of the eukaryotic nucleus marked a seminal evolutionary transition. We propose that the nuclear envelope's incipient function was to allow mRNA splicing, which is slow, to go to completion so that translation, which is fast, would occur only on mRNA with intact reading frames. The rapid, fortuitous spread of introns following the origin of mitochondria is adduced as the selective pressure that forged nucleus–cytosol compartmentalization.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the DFG (W.M.) and the NIH intramural research program (E.V.K.) for financial support, and M. Embley, T. Dagan, I. Rogozin, T. Senkevich and Y. Wolf for discussions.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institute of Botany III, University of Düsseldorf, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany

    • William Martin
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20894, USA

    • Eugene V. Koonin

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Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to William Martin.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04531

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