Recent studies on Leishmania enriettii tubulin mRNAs revealed a 35 nucleotide addition to their 5′ end. The gene that codes for this 35 nucleotide leader sequence has now been cloned and sequenced. In the Leishmania genome, the spliced leader gene exists as a tandem repeat of 438 bases. There are approximately 150 copies of this gene comprising 0.1% of the parasite genome. This gene codes for a 85 nucleotide transcript that contains the spliced leader at its 5′ end. The 35 nucleotide sequence and the regions immediately 5′ and 3′ to it are highly conserved across trypanosomatids. We have detected a RNA molecule that is a putative by-product of the processing reaction in which the 35 nucleotide spliced leader has been transferred to mRNA. We suggest that this molecule is the remnant of the spliced leader transcript after removal of the 35 nucleotide spliced leader.
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