Alternative splicing generates multiple transcripts from a single gene, enriching the diversity of proteins and phenotypic traits. Alternative splicing contributes to key innovations over long evolutionary timescales, such as brain development in bilaterians.
Recent developments in long-read sequencing and high-quality genome assemblies for diverse organisms have facilitated comparisons of splicing profiles between closely related species, providing insights into how alternative splicing evolves over shorter timescales
In this Perspective, the authors summarize the ways in which alternative splicing occurs and the diverse functional roles it serves, namely in the context of proteomic diversity, development and phenotypic plasticity
They review the evolution of alternative splicing and the extent to which splicing variation can catalyse evolutionary change, including adaptation and speciation
Finally, the authors explore the evidence that alternative splicing diverges as a result of natural selection
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