Ask Difference

Introns vs. Exons — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 16, 2024
Introns are non-coding sequences removed during RNA splicing; exons are coding sequences that remain in mRNA to be translated into protein.
Introns vs. Exons — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Introns and Exons


Key Differences

Introns and exons are integral components of gene structure in eukaryotic cells. Introns, short for "intragenic regions," are sequences within a gene that are not translated into protein. These non-coding regions are interspersed with exons, which are the coding sequences that dictate protein synthesis. During gene expression, introns are removed in a process called splicing to create a contiguous sequence of exons.
Both introns and exons are initially transcribed as part of pre-messenger RNA (pre-mRNA). However, their fates diverge during RNA processing. Introns are excised and stay inside the nucleus, whereas exons are spliced together to form mature messenger RNA (mRNA). This mature mRNA is what travels to the ribosome to guide protein synthesis, underscoring the functional importance of exons.
The existence of introns and exons allows for a process known as alternative splicing, where the same gene can give rise to multiple proteins. Introns can contain sequences that regulate this process, influencing which exons are included in the final mRNA. The intricate dance between introns and exons during RNA splicing is a critical aspect of gene regulation and protein diversity.
Introns, although not directly involved in protein coding, play a crucial role in genome evolution and gene expression. They can harbor regulatory elements and act as a source of genetic diversity. Conversely, exons represent the "expression" aspect of genes, providing the blueprint for proteins that perform a myriad of functions within the cell.
The study of introns and exons extends beyond basic science; it has implications in biotechnology and medicine. Mutations that affect the splicing of introns and exons can lead to disease, and thus understanding their function is vital for developing genetic therapies. Both introns and exons, therefore, are fundamental to the complexity of life, with introns acting as the regulatory and evolutionary backdrop to the functional protein-coding exons.

Comparison Chart


Non-coding regions of a gene, removed during RNA splicing
Coding regions of a gene, included in mRNA for protein synthesis

Role in mRNA

Removed before translation; do not appear in final mRNA
Spliced together to form the final mRNA template for protein synthesis

Evolutionary Function

May regulate gene expression; can enable alternative splicing for protein diversity
Essential for protein coding; mutations can directly affect protein structure and function

Occurrence in Prokaryotes

Generally absent; prokaryotic genes are mostly devoid of introns
Continuous and uninterrupted coding sequences are typical in prokaryotic genes

Medical Relevance

Intronic mutations can disrupt gene expression and splicing, leading to disease
Exonic mutations directly change the amino acid sequence of proteins, potentially causing disease

Compare with Definitions


Introns are often considered "junk DNA," although they have important regulatory roles.
A particular intron's sequence was discovered to enhance the expression of a neighboring gene.


Exons are the coding regions of a gene that remain in mRNA after splicing.
The exons of a gene come together to direct the production of a specific protein.


Introns are segments of DNA within a gene that do not encode for protein.
During gene expression, introns are cut out of the pre-mRNA transcript.


Exons are considered the "expressed" part of the gene.
Research on the beta-globin gene exons has helped understand sickle cell anemia.


Introns serve as non-coding interruptions in the coding sequence of genes.
Scientists are studying introns to understand their role in alternative splicing.


Exons are essential for the synthesis of proteins in cells.


Introns can regulate gene expression by influencing RNA splicing.
The length of introns can affect the timing and efficiency of gene splicing.


Exons dictate the amino acid sequence of the resulting protein.
A mutation in a critical exon resulted in a dysfunctional enzyme.


Introns may contain "hidden" functions and contribute to genetic diversity.
Geneticists found that certain introns play a vital role in the evolution of genomes.


Exons can be alternatively spliced, leading to multiple protein variants from a single gene.
Alternative splicing of exons gives rise to the different isoforms of the dystrophin protein.


A segment of a gene situated between exons that is removed before translation of messenger RNA and does not function in coding for protein synthesis.


A nucleotide sequence that is found in a gene, codes information for protein synthesis, and is transcribed to messenger RNA.


Plural of intron


Plural of exon

Common Curiosities

How do introns and exons relate to gene expression?

Exons are expressed as proteins, while introns are spliced out before protein synthesis.

What are introns?

Introns are non-coding sequences of DNA within a gene that are removed during mRNA processing.

What are exons?

Exons are coding sequences in DNA that remain in mRNA after processing and code for proteins.

Do introns have a function?

Introns may regulate gene expression, maintain genome size, and facilitate recombination.

Are introns found in all organisms?

Introns are found in the genes of many eukaryotic organisms but are rare in prokaryotes.

How are introns removed from pre-mRNA?

Introns are removed through a process called splicing, carried out by the spliceosome.

Can exons be shuffled to create different proteins?

Yes, through a process called alternative splicing, different proteins can be produced from the same gene.

How does the discovery of introns impact our understanding of genetics?

It has revealed complexity in gene regulation and protein synthesis, highlighting the dynamic nature of the genome.

What is the significance of the exon-intron structure of genes?

It allows for complex regulation of gene expression and the generation of protein diversity.

Are introns transcribed into RNA?

Yes, introns are transcribed into pre-mRNA but are then removed during RNA processing.

Do all exons code for amino acids?

Most exons code for amino acids, but some may contain untranslated regions that are important for regulation.

Do introns contain regulatory elements?

Introns can contain elements such as enhancers that regulate gene expression.

What is alternative splicing?

Alternative splicing is the process where different combinations of exons are joined together to produce multiple mRNA variants from a single gene.

Can the number of introns and exons vary between genes?

Yes, different genes can have varying numbers of introns and exons.

Are intron and exon lengths consistent across different genes?

No, they can vary widely between different genes and organisms.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger

Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms