Detection of complex splice sites (SSs) and polyadenylation sites (PASs) of eukaryotic genes is essential for the elucidation of gene regulatory mechanisms. Transcriptome-wide studies using high-throughput sequencing (HTS) have revealed prevalent alternative splicing (AS) and alternative polyadenylation (APA) in plants. However, small-scale and high-depth HTS aimed at detecting genes or gene families are very few and limited. We explored a convenient and flexible method for profiling SSs and PASs, which combines rapid amplification of 3′-cDNA ends (3′-RACE) and HTS. Fourteen NAC (NAM, ATAF1/2, CUC2) transcription factor genes of Populus trichocarpa
were analyzed by 3′-RACE-seq. Based on experimental reproducibility, boundary sequence analysis and reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) verification, only canonical SSs were considered to be authentic. Based on stringent criteria, candidate PASs without any internal priming features were chosen as authentic PASs and assumed to be PAS-rich markers. Thirty-four novel canonical SSs, six intronic/internal exons and thirty 3′-UTR PAS-rich markers were revealed by 3′-RACE-seq. Using 3′-RACE and real-time PCR, we confirmed that three APA transcripts ending in/around PAS-rich markers were differentially regulated in response to plant hormones. Our results indicate that 3′-RACE-seq is a robust and cost-effective method to discover SSs and label active regions subjected to APA for genes or gene families. The method is suitable for small-scale AS and APA research in the initial stage.
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