We show that two invertase genes in potato, like most other plant invertase genes, include a very short second exon of 9 bp which encodes the central three amino acids of a motif highly conserved in invertases of diverse origin. This mini-exon is one of the smallest known in plants and pre-mRNA from these genes may be susceptible to alternative splicing, because of a potential requirement for specialized interaction with the splicing machinery to ensure correct processing for the production of a mature mRNA. No evidence of aberrant post-transcriptional processing was observed during normal invertase gene expression in potato. The fidelity of post-transcriptional processing of the pre-mRNA from one of the genes was perturbed by cold stress, resulting in the deletion of the mini-exon from some transcripts. This alternative splicing event occurred under cold stress in both leaf and stem, but was not induced by wounding. This adds an example of exon skipping and the induction of alternative processing by cold stress to the small number of transcripts which have been shown to exhibit alternative splicing in plants. The differential sensitivity of post-transcriptional processing to cold stress observed for the two transcripts examined will permit further dissection of the nucleotide sequence requirements for their accurate splicing.
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