Department of Biochemistry, 80 Tennis Court Road, University of Cambridge, CB2 1GA, UK.
In violation of the 'one gene, one polypeptide' rule, alternative splicing allows individual genes to produce multiple protein isoforms - thereby playing a central part in generating complex proteomes. Alternative splicing also has a largely hidden function in quantitative gene control, by targeting RNAs for nonsense-mediated decay. Traditional gene-by-gene investigations of alternative splicing mechanisms are now being complemented by global approaches. These promise to reveal details of the nature and operation of cellular codes that are constituted by combinations of regulatory elements in pre-mRNA substrates and by cellular complements of splicing regulators, which together determine regulated splicing pathways.