Genetic analyses and systematic mutagenesis have revealed that synonymous, non synonymous and intronic mutations frequently alter the inclusion levels of alternatively spliced exons, consistent with the concept that altered splicing might be a common mechanism by which mutations cause disease. However, most exons expressed in any cell are highly included in mature mRNAs. Here, by performing deep mutagenesis of highly-included exons and by analysing the association between genome sequence variation and exon inclusion across the transcriptome, we report that mutations only very rarely alter the inclusion of highly included exons. This is true for both exonic and intronic mutations as well as for perturbations in trans. Therefore, mutations that affect splicing are not evenly distributed across primary transcripts but are focussed in and around alternatively spliced exons with intermediate inclusion levels. These results provide a resource for prioritising synonymous and other variants as disease-causing mutations.
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