BACKGROUND: Analysis of the human genome has revealed that as much as an order of magnitude more of the genomic sequence is transcribed than accounted for by the predicted and characterized genes. A number of these transcripts are alternatively spliced forms of known protein coding genes; however, it is becoming clear that many of them do not necessarily correspond to a functional protein. RESULTS: In this study we analyze alternative splicing isoforms of human gene products that are unambiguously identified by mass spectrometry and compare their properties with those of isoforms of the same genes for which no peptide was found in publicly available mass spectrometry datasets. We analyze them in detail for the presence of uninterrupted functional domains, active sites as well as the plausibility of their predicted structure. We report how well each of these strategies and their combination can correctly identify translated isoforms and derive a lower limit for their specificity, that is, their ability to correctly identify non-translated products. CONCLUSIONS: The most effective strategy for correctly identifying translated products relies on the conservation of active sites, but it can only be applied to a small fraction of isoforms, while a reasonably high coverage, sensitivity and specificity can be achieved by analyzing the presence of non-truncated functional domains. Combining the latter with an assessment of the plausibility of the modeled structure of the isoform increases both coverage and specificity with a moderate cost in terms of sensitivity.
BACKGROUND: The growth and development of a biological organism is reflected by its metabolic network, the evolution of which relies on the essential gene duplication mechanism. There are two current views about the evolution of metabolic networks. The retrograde model hypothesizes that a pathway evolves by recruiting novel enzymes in a direction opposite to the metabolic flow. The patchwork model is instead based on the assumption that the evolution is based on the exploitation of broad-specificity enzymes capable of catalysing a variety of metabolic reactions. RESULTS: We analysed a well-studied unicellular eukaryotic organism, S. cerevisiae, and studied the effect of the removal of paralogous gene products on its metabolic network. Our results, obtained using different paralog and network definitions, show that, after an initial period when gene duplication was indeed instrumental in expanding the metabolic space, the latter reached an equilibrium and subsequent gene duplications were used as a source of more specialized enzymes rather than as a source of novel reactions. We also show that the switch between the two evolutionary strategies in S. cerevisiae can be dated to about 350 million years ago. CONCLUSIONS: Our data, obtained through a novel analysis methodology, strongly supports the hypothesis that the patchwork model better explains the more recent evolution of the S. cerevisiae metabolic network. Interestingly, the effects of a patchwork strategy acting before the Euascomycete-Hemiascomycete divergence are still detectable today.
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