The fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 gene contains a pair of mutually exclusive alternative exons, one of which (K-SAM) is spliced specifically in epithelial cells. We have described previously (F. Del Gatto and R. Breathnach, Mol. Cell. Biol. 15:4825-4834, 1995) some elements controlling K-SAM exon splicing, namely weak exon splice sites, an exon-repressing sequence, and an intron-activating sequence. We identify here two additional sequences in the intron downstream from the K-SAM exon which activate splicing of the exon. The first sequence (intron-activating sequence 2 [IAS2]) lies 168 to 186 nucleotides downstream from the exon's 5' splice site. The second sequence (intron-activating sequence 3 [IAS3]) lies 933 to 1,052 nucleotides downstream from the exon's 5' splice site. IAS3 is a complex region composed of several parts, one of which (nucleotides 963 to 983) can potentially form an RNA secondary structure with IAS2. This structure is composed of two stems separated by an asymmetric bulge. Mutations which disrupt either stem decrease activation, while compensatory mutations which reestablish the stem restore activation, either completely or partially, depending on the mutation. We present a model for K-SAM exon splicing involving the intervention of multiple, interdependent pre-mRNA sequence elements
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