mRNA polyadenylation is a critical cellular process in eukaryotes. It involves 3′ end cleavage of nascent mRNAs and addition of the poly(A) tall, which plays important roles in many aspects of the cellular metabolism of mRNA. The process is controlled by various cis-acting elements surrounding the cleavage site, and their binding factors. In this study, we surveyed genome regions containing cleavage sites [herein called poly(A) sites], for 13 942 human and 11 155 mouse genes. We found that a great proportion of human and mouse genes have alternative polyadenylation (∼54 and 32%, respectively). The conservation of alternative polyadenylation type or polyadenylation configuration between human and mouse orthologs is statistically significant, indicating that alternative polyadenylation is widely employed by these two species to produce alternative gene transcripts. Genes belonging to several functional groups, indicated by their Gene Ontology annotations, are biased with respect to polyadenylation configuration. Many poly(A) sites harbor multiple cleavage sites (51.25% human and 46.97% mouse sites), leading to heterogeneous 3′ end formation for transcripts. This implies that the cleavage process of polyadenylation is largely imprecise. Different types of poly(A) sites, with regard to their relative locations in a gene, are found to have distinct nucleotide composition in surrounding genomic regions. This large-scale study provides important insights into the mechanism of polyadenylation in mammalian species and represents a genomic view of the regulation of gene expression by alternative polyadenylation.
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