My group studies the mechanism of polycistronic pre-mRNA processing in C. elegans. It used to be thought that operons, multiple genes assembled into a single transcription unit, were restricted to bacteria. However, we discovered several years ago that the nematode, C. elegans, had operons scattered throughout its genome. Since then, operons have been discovered in numerous animal phyla. It seems that operons develop wherever SL-type trans-splicing has arisen. SL-type trans-splicing, which we have also studied extensively, is a variant of regular splicing (intron removal) in which a short leader replaces the outron at the 5' end of the pre-mRNA. In polycistronic transcription units, trans-splicing is used to separate the long precursor into single-gene mature mRNAs. My group is studying how that process works, with special attention to how the trans-splicing event, using a specialized spliced leader, is coordinated with 3' end formation just upstream.
trans-splicing, operons in eukaryotes, C. elegans molecular biology, gene expression, RNA, gene transcription, pre-mRNA splicing, genomics, RNA synthesis