I read the book: Essential Genetics and Genomics It has a table summarizing the properties of the "typical" human gene:

Table9.2 "Characteristics of Human Genes" from "Essential Genetics and Genomics"

It has a gene feature Size of internal exon, what internal means in this context?

When I searched for it I found mentions about external exons, but found no definition.

I strongly suspect they mean:

External exons are the first exon right after the 5' untranslated region and the last exon just before the 3' untranslated region and all the other exons are internal exons.

As turned out this was almost right, but had a mistake which is wonderfully pointed out in the accepted answer.


1 Answer 1


Yes, the internal exons are those that aren't at the ends, which are often referred to as terminal exons1.

However, exons are sequences of nucleotides that are incorporated into the mature mRNA — i.e. they don't have to be (entirely) protein coding.

It is probably simplest to think of exons as being the transcribed regions that are not introns — i.e. they are the sequences that don't get spliced out during transcript maturation.

In other words, the 5'UTR is typically§ part of the first exon and the 3' UTR is typically§ part of the last exon.

§Note: I say typically, because sometimes introns are found within the UTRs2,3.


1: Bolisetty, M. T., & Beemon, K. L. (2012). Splicing of internal large exons is defined by novel cis-acting sequence elements. Nucleic acids research, 40(18), 9244-9254.

2: Eden, E., & Brunak, S. (2004). Analysis and recognition of 5′ UTR intron splice sites in human pre‐mRNA. Nucleic acids research, 32(3), 1131-1142.

3: Paolantoni, C., Ricciardi, S., De Paolis, V., Okenwa, C., Catalanotto, C., Ciotti, M. T., ... & Giorgi, C. (2018). Arc 3′ UTR splicing leads to dual and antagonistic effects in fine-tuning arc expression upon BDNF signaling. Frontiers in molecular neuroscience, 11, 145.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the precise answer and references. $\endgroup$
    – atevm
    Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ You're very welcome! 😊 $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 4:11

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