Snake venoms are complex mixtures of toxic proteins encoded by various gene families that function synergistically to incapacitate prey. A huge repertoire of snake venom genes and proteins have been reported, and alternative splicing is suggested to be involved in the production of divergent gene transcripts. However, a genome-wide survey of the transcript repertoire and the extent of alternative splicing still remains to be determined. In this study, the comprehensive analysis of transcriptomes in the venom gland was achieved by using PacBio sequencing. Extensive alternative splicing was observed in three venom protein gene families, metalloproteinase (MP), serine protease (SP), and vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF). Eleven MP and SP genes and a VEGF gene are expressed as a total of 81, 61, and 8 transcript variants, respectively. In the MP gene family, individual genes are transcribed into different classes of MPs by alternative splicing. We also observed trans-splicing among the clustered SP genes. No other venom genes as well as non-venom counterpart genes exhibited alternative splicing. Our results thus indicate a potential contribution of mRNA alternative and trans-splicing in the production of highly variable transcripts of venom genes in the habu snake.
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