In archaeal species, several transfer RNA genes have been reported to contain endogenous introns. Although most of the introns are located at anticodon loop regions between nucleotide positions 37 and 38, a number of introns at noncanonical sites and six cases of tRNA genes containing two introns have also been documented. However, these tRNA genes are often missed by tRNAscan-SE, the software most widely used for the annotation of tRNA genes. We previously developed SPLITS, a computational tool to identify tRNA genes containing one intron at a noncanonical position on the basis of its discriminative splicing motif, but the software was limited in the detection of tRNA genes with multiple introns at noncanonical sites. In this study, we initially updated the system as SPLITSX in order to correctly predict known tRNA genes as well as novel ones with multiple introns. By a comprehensive search for tRNA genes in 29 archaeal genomes using SPLITSX, we listed 43 novel candidates that contain introns at noncanonical sites. As a result, 15 contained two introns and three contained three introns within the respective putative tRNA genes. Moreover, the candidates completely complemented all the codons of two archaeal species of uncultured methanogenic archaeon, RC-I and Thermofilum pendens Hrk 5, with novel candidates that were not detectable by tRNAscan-SE alone. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
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