hnRNP A1 regulates alternative splicing by antagonizing SR proteins. It consists of two closely related, tandem RNA-recognition motifs (RRMs), followed by a glycine-rich domain. Analysis of variant proteins with duplications, deletions, or swaps of the RRMs showed that although both RRMs are required for alternative splicing function, each RRM plays distinct roles, and their relative position is important. Surprisingly, RRM2 but not RRM1 could support this function when duplicated, despite their very similar structure. Specific RNA binding and annealing are not sufficient for hnRNP A1 alternative splicing function. These observations, together with phylogenetic and structural data, suggest that the two RRMs are quasi-symmetric but functionally nonequivalent modules that evolved as components of a single bipartite domain.
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