Intron removal from a pre-mRNA by RNA splicing was once thought to be controlled mainly by intron splicing signals. However, viral and other eukaryotic RNA exon sequences have recently been found to regulate RNA splicing, polyadenylation, export, and nonsense-mediated RNA decay in addition to their coding function. Regulation of alternative RNA splicing by exon sequences is largely attributable to the presence of two major cis-acting elements in the regulated exons, the exonic splicing enhancer (ESE) and the suppressor or silencer (ESS). Two types of ESEs have been verified from more than 50 genes or exons: purine-rich ESEs, which are the more common, and non-purine-rich ESEs. In contrast, the sequences of ESSs identified in approximately 21 genes or exons are highly diverse and show little similarity to each other. Through interactions with cellular splicing factors, an ESE or ESS determines whether or not a regulated splice site, usually an upstream 3′ splice site, will be used for RNA splicing. However, how these elements function precisely in selecting a regulated splice site is only partially understood. The balance between positive and negative regulation of splice site selection likely depends on the cis-element’s identity and changes in cellular splicing factors under physiological or pathological conditions.
RNA; exons; introns; alternative RNA splicing; gene expression; RNA processing; splicing enhancers; splicing suppressors
Regulation of alternative splicing is controlled by pre-mRNA sequences (cis-elements) and trans-acting protein factors that bind them. The combinatorial interactions of multiple protein factors with the cis-elements surrounding a given alternative splicing event lead to an integrated splicing decision. The mechanism of multifactorial splicing regulation is poorly understood. Using a splicing-sensitive DNA microarray, we assayed 352 Caenorhabditis elegans alternative cassette exons for changes in embryonic splicing patterns between wild-type and 12 different strains carrying mutations in a splicing factor. We identified many alternative splicing events that are regulated by multiple splicing factors. Many splicing factors have the ability to behave as splicing repressors for some alternative cassette exons and as splicing activators for others. Unexpectedly, we found that the ability of a given alternative splicing factor to behave as an enhancer or repressor of a specific splicing event can change during development. Our observations that splicing factors can change their effects on a substrate during development support a model in which combinatorial effects of multiple factors, both constitutive and developmentally regulated ones, contribute to the overall splicing decision.
Regulation between protein kinases is critical for the establishment of signaling pathways/networks to orchestrate cellular processes. Besides posttranslational phosphorylation, alternative pre-mRNA splicing is another way to control kinase properties, but splicing regulation between two kinases and the effect of resulting variants on cells have not been explored. We examined the effect of the protein kinase A (PKA) pathway on the alternative splicing and variant properties of the Ca++/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase kinase 2 (CaMKK2) gene in B35 neuroblastoma cells. Inclusion of the exon 16 of CaMKK2 was significantly reduced by H89, a PKA selective inhibitor. Consistently, overexpressed PKA strongly promoted the exon inclusion in a CaMKK2 sequence-dependent way in splicing reporter assays. In vitro, purified CaMKK2 variant proteins were kinase-active. In cells, they were differentially phosphorylated by PKA. In RNA interference assays, CaMKK2 was required for forskolin-induced neurite growth. Interestingly, overexpression of the variant without exon 16 (−E16) promoted neurite elongation while the other one (+E16) promoted neurite branching; in contrast, reduction of the latter variant enhanced neurite elongation. Moreover, the variants are differentially expressed and the exon 16-containing transcripts highly enriched in the brain, particularly the cerebellum and hippocampus. Thus, PKA regulates the alternative splicing of CaMKK2 to produce variants that differentially modulate neuronal differentiation. Taken together with the many distinct variants of kinases, alternative splicing regulation likely adds another layer of modulation between protein kinases in cellular signaling networks.
alternative splicing; protein kinase A; cross-regulation; neuronal differentiation; phosphorylation
Alternative pre-mRNA splicing has a major impact on cellular functions and development with the potential to fine-tune cellular localization, posttranslational modification, interaction properties, and expression levels of cognate proteins. The plasticity of regulation sets the stage for cells to adjust the relative levels of spliced mRNA isoforms in response to stress or stimulation. As part of an exon profiling analysis of mouse cortical neurons stimulated with high KCl to induce membrane depolarization, we detected a previously unrecognized exon (E24a) of the CASK gene, which encodes for a conserved peptide insertion in the guanylate kinase interaction domain. Comparative sequence analysis shows that E24a appeared selectively in mammalian CASK genes as part of a >3,000 base pair intron insertion. We demonstrate that a combination of a naturally defective 5′ splice site and negative regulation by several splicing factors, including SC35 (SRSF2) and ASF/SF2 (SRSF1), drives E24a skipping in most cell types. However, this negative regulation is countered with an observed increase in E24a inclusion after neuronal stimulation and NMDA receptor signaling. Taken together, E24a is typically a skipped exon, which awakens during neuronal stimulation with the potential to diversify the protein interaction properties of the CASK polypeptide.
Pre-mRNA splicing is an essential step in the process of gene expression in eukaryotes and consists of the removal of introns and the linking of exons to generate mature mRNAs. This is a highly regulated mechanism that allows the alternative usage of exons, the retention of intronic sequences and the generation of exonic sequences of variable length. Most human genes undergo splicing events, and disruptions of this process have been associated with a variety of diseases, including cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a molecularly heterogeneous type of tumor that usually develops in a cirrhotic liver. Alterations in pre-mRNA splicing of some genes have been observed in liver cancer, and although still scarce, the available data suggest that splicing defects may have a role in hepatocarcinogenesis. Here we briefly review the general mechanisms that regulate pre-mRNA splicing, and discuss some examples that illustrate how this process is impaired in liver tumorigenesis, and may contribute to HCC development. We believe that a more thorough examination of pre-mRNA splicing is still needed to accurately draw the molecular portrait of liver cancer. This will surely contribute to a better understanding of the disease and to the development of new effective therapies.
Cell signalling; Hepatocarcinogenesis; Pre-mRNA splicing; Splicing factors; Targeted anticancer therapy
The neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) gene contains an 801 nt exon that is included preferentially in neuronal cells. We have set up an in vitro splicing system that mimics the neuro-specific alternative splicing profile of NCAM exon 18. Splicing regulation is observed using model pre-mRNAs that contain competing 5' or 3' splice sites, suggesting that distinct pathways regulate NCAM 5' and 3' splice site selection. While inclusion of exon 18 is the predom-inant choice in neuronal cells, an element in the 5' common exon 17 improves exon 17/exon 19 splicing in a neuronal cell line. A similar behavior is observed in vitro as the element can stimulate the 5' splice site of exon 17 or a heterologous 5' splice site. The minimal 32 nt sequence of the exon 17 enhancer consists of purine stretches and A/C motifs. Mutations in the purine stretches compromise the binding of SR proteins and decreases splicing stimulation in vitro. Mutations in the A/C motifs do not affect SR protein binding but reduce enhancing activity. Our results suggest that the assembly of an enhancer complex containing SR proteins in a 5' common exon ensures that NCAM mRNAs lacking exon 18 are made in neuronal cells.
More than 90% of human genes are rich in intronic latent 5′ splice sites whose utilization in pre-mRNA splicing would introduce in-frame stop codons into the resultant mRNAs. We have therefore hypothesized that suppression of splicing (SOS) at latent 5′ splice sites regulates alternative 5′ splice site selection in a way that prevents the production of toxic nonsense mRNAs and verified this idea by showing that the removal of such in-frame stop codons is sufficient to activate latent splicing. Splicing control by SOS requires recognition of the mRNA reading frame, presumably recognizing the start codon sequence. Here we show that AUG sequences are indeed essential for SOS. Although protein translation does not seem to be required for SOS, the first AUG is shown here to be necessary but not sufficient. We further show that latent splicing can be elicited upon treatment with pactamycin—a drug known to block translation by its ability to recognize an RNA fold—but not by treatment with other drugs that inhibit translation through other mechanisms. The effect of pactamycin on SOS is dependent neither on steady-state translation nor on the pioneer round of translation. This effect is found for both transfected and endogenous genes, indicating that SOS is a natural mechanism.
Alternative splicing of transcripts in a signal-dependent manner has emerged as an important concept to ensure appropriate expression of splice variants under different conditions. Binding of the general splicing factor U2AF to splice sites preceding alternatively spliced exons has been suggested to be an important step for splice site recognition. For splicing to proceed, U2AF has to be replaced by other factors. We show here that U2AF interacts with the signal-dependent splice regulator Sam68 and that forced expression of Sam68 results in enhanced binding of the U2AF65 subunit to an alternatively spliced pre-mRNA sequence in vivo. Conversely, the rapid signal-induced and phosphorylation-dependent interference with Sam68 binding to RNA was accompanied by reduced pre-mRNA occupancy of U2AF in vivo. Our data suggest that Sam68 can affect splice site occupancy by U2AF in signal-dependent splicing. We propose that the induced release of U2AF from pre-mRNA provides a regulatory step to control alternative splicing.
Alternative splicing is a fundamental feature in regulating the eukaryotic transcriptome, as ~95% of multi-exon human Pol II transcripts are subject to this process. Regulated splicing operates through the combinatorial interplay of positive and negative regulatory signals present in the pre-mRNA, which are recognized by trans-acting factors. All these RNA and protein components are assembled in a gigantic, 21 MDa, ribonucleoprotein splicing machine – the supraspliceosome. Because most alternatively spliced mRNA isoforms vary between different cell and tissue types, the ability to perform alternative splicing is expected to be an integral part of the supraspliceosome, which constitutes the splicing machine in vivo. Here we show that both the constitutively and alternatively spliced mRNAs of the endogenous human pol II transcripts: hnRNP A/B, survival of motor neuron (SMN) and ADAR2 are predominantly found in supraspliceosomes. This finding is consistent with our observations that the splicing regulators hnRNP G as well as all phosphorylated SR proteins are predominantly associated with supraspliceosomes. We further show that changes in alternative splicing of hnRNP A/B, affected by up regulation of SRSF5 (SRp40) or by treatment with C6-ceramide, occur within supraspliceosomes. These observations support the proposed role of the supraspliceosome in splicing regulation and alternative splicing.
RNA splicing; ribonucleoprotein; macromolecular assembly; alternative splicing; SR proteins; supraspliceosome
The splicing of pre-mRNAs is an essential step of gene expression in eukaryotes. Introns are removed from split genes through the activities of the spliceosome, a large ribonuclear machine that is conserved throughout the eukaryotic lineage. While unicellular eukaryotes are characterized by less complex splicing, pre-mRNA splicing of multicellular organisms is often associated with extensive alternative splicing that significantly enriches their proteome. The alternative selection of splice sites and exons permits multicellular organisms to modulate gene expression patterns in a cell type specific fashion, thus contributing to their functional diversification. Alternative splicing is a regulated process that is mainly influenced by the activities of splicing regulators, such as SR proteins or hnRNPs. These modular factors have evolved from a common ancestor through gene duplication events to a diverse group of splicing regulators that mediate exon recognition through their sequence specific binding to pre-mRNAs. Given the strong correlations between intron expansion, the complexity of pre-mRNA splicing, and the emergence of splicing regulators, it is argued that the increased presence of SR and hnRNP proteins promoted the evolution of alternative splicing through relaxation of the sequence requirements of splice junctions.
Pre-mRNA splicing; Spliceosome; alternative splicing; splicing regulation; SR protein; hnRNP protein; evolution; intron expansion; gene duplication; multicellular eukaryote; unicellular eukaryote; exon recognition; splice site
The assembly of synapses and neuronal circuits relies on an array of molecular recognition events and their modification by neuronal activity. Neurexins are a highly polymorphic family of synaptic receptors diversified by extensive alternative splicing. Neurexin variants exhibit distinct isoform-specific biochemical interactions and synapse assembly functions but the mechanisms governing splice isoform choice are not understood. We demonstrate that Nrxn1 alternative splicing is temporally and spatially controlled in the mouse brain. Neuronal activity triggers a shift in Nrxn1 splice isoform choice via calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase IV signaling. Activity-dependent alternative splicing of Nrxn1 requires the KH-domain RNA binding protein SAM68 which associates with RNA response elements in the Nrxn1 pre-mRNA. Our findings uncover SAM68 as a key regulator of dynamic control of Nrxn1 molecular diversity and activity-dependent alternative splicing in the central nervous system.
Controlled expression of cellular and viral genes through alternative precursor messenger RNA (pre-mRNA) splicing requires serine/arginine-rich (SR) proteins. The Clk1 kinase, which phosphorylates SR proteins, is regulated through alternative splicing of the Clk1 pre-mRNA, yielding mRNAs encoding catalytically active and truncated inactive polypeptides (Clk1 and Clk1T, respectively). We present evidence that Clk1 and Clk1T proteins regulate the splicing of Clk1 and adenovirus pre-mRNAs in vivo. The peptide domain encoded by the alternatively spliced exon of Clk1 is essential for the regulatory activity of the Clk1 kinase. This is the first direct demonstration of an in vivo link between alternative splicing and protein kinase activity.
Alternative pre-mRNA splicing is widely used to regulate gene expression by tuning the levels of tissue-specific mRNA isoforms. Few regulatory mechanisms are understood at the level of combinatorial control despite numerous sequences, distinct from splice sites, that have been shown to play roles in splicing enhancement or silencing. Here we use molecular approaches to identify a ternary combination of exonic UAGG and 5′-splice-site-proximal
GGGG motifs that functions cooperatively to silence the brain-region-specific CI cassette exon (exon 19) of the glutamate NMDA R1 receptor (GRIN1) transcript. Disruption of three components of the motif pattern converted the CI cassette into a constitutive exon, while predominant skipping was conferred when the same components were introduced, de novo, into a heterologous constitutive exon. Predominant exon silencing was directed by the motif pattern in the presence of six competing exonic splicing enhancers, and this effect was retained after systematically repositioning the two exonic UAGGs within the CI cassette. In this system, hnRNP A1 was shown to mediate silencing while hnRNP H antagonized silencing. Genome-wide computational analysis combined with RT-PCR testing showed that a class of skipped human and mouse exons can be identified by searches that preserve the sequence and spatial configuration of the UAGG and
GGGG motifs. This analysis suggests that the multi-component silencing code may play an important role in the tissue-specific regulation of the CI cassette exon, and that it may serve more generally as a molecular language to allow for intricate adjustments and the coordination of splicing patterns from different genes.
Many genes are alternatively spliced, but the signals that regulate the process are unclear. These authors have found a sequence motif that appears to function at many alternatively spliced genes
Splicing therapeutics are defined as the deliberate modification of RNA splicing to achieve therapeutic goals. Various techniques for splicing therapeutics have been described, and most of these involve the use of antisense oligonucleotide-based compounds that target key elements in the pre-mRNA to control splicing in the nucleus. In this review, recent developments in splicing therapeutics for the treatment of two specific diseases are described: correcting the alternative splicing of survival of motor neuron (SMN)2 pre-mRNA to compensate for the defective SMN1 gene in spinal muscular atrophy, and re-engineering the splicing of apolipoprotein B pre-mRNA to lower circulating cholesterol levels.
Antisense oligonucleotide; APOB; apolipoprotein B; cholesterol; RNA splicing; SMN2; spinal muscular atrophy
Alternative pre-mRNA splicing of two terminal exons (α and β) regulates the expression of the human DNA ligase III gene. In most tissues, the α exon is expressed. In testes and during spermatogenesis, the β exon is used instead. The α exon encodes the interaction domain with a scaffold DNA repair protein, XRCC1, while the β exon-encoded C-terminal does not. Sequence elements regulating the alternative splicing pattern were mapped by in vitro splicing assays in HeLa nuclear extracts. Deletion of a region beginning in the β exon and extending into the downstream intron derepressed splicing to the β exon. Two silencing elements were found within this 101 nt region: a 16 nt exonic splicing silencer immediately upstream of the β exon polyadenylation signal and a 45 nt intronic splicing silencer. The exonic splicing silencer inhibited splicing, even when the polyadenylation signal was deleted or replaced by a 5′ splice site. This element also enhanced polyadenylation under conditions unfavourable to splicing. The splicing silencer partially inhibited assembly of spliceosomal complexes and functioned in an adenoviral pre-mRNA context. Silencing of splicing by the element was associated with cross-linking of a 37 kDa protein to the RNA substrate. The element exerts opposite functions in splicing and polyadenylation.
Knowledge of the functional cis-regulatory elements that regulate constitutive and alternative pre-mRNA splicing is fundamental for biology and medicine. Here we undertook a genome-wide comparative genomics approach using available mammalian genomes to identify conserved intronic splicing regulatory elements (ISREs). Our approach yielded 314 ISREs, and insertions of ~70 ISREs between competing splice sites demonstrated that 84% of ISREs altered 5′ and 94% altered 3′ splice site choice in human cells. Consistent with our experiments, comparisons of ISREs to known splicing regulatory elements revealed that 40%–45% of ISREs might have dual roles as exonic splicing silencers. Supporting a role for ISREs in alternative splicing, we found that 30%–50% of ISREs were enriched near alternatively spliced (AS) exons, and included almost all known binding sites of tissue-specific alternative splicing factors. Further, we observed that genes harboring ISRE-proximal exons have biases for tissue expression and molecular functions that are ISRE-specific. Finally, we discovered that for Nova1, neuronal PTB, hnRNP C, and FOX1, the most frequently occurring ISRE proximal to an alternative conserved exon in the splicing factor strongly resembled its own known RNA binding site, suggesting a novel application of ISRE density and the propensity for splicing factors to auto-regulate to associate RNA binding sites to splicing factors. Our results demonstrate that ISREs are crucial building blocks in understanding general and tissue-specific AS regulation and the biological pathways and functions regulated by these AS events.
During RNA splicing, sequences (introns) in a pre-mRNA are excised and discarded, and the remaining sequences (exons) are joined to form the mature RNA. Splicing is regulated not only by the binding of the basic splicing machinery to splice sites located at the exon–intron boundaries, but also by the combined effects of various other splicing factors that bind to a multitude of sequence elements located both in the exons as well as the flanking introns. Instances of alternative splicing, where usage of splice site(s) is incomplete or different between tissues, cell types, or lineages, can be created by the interaction of sequence elements and tissue, cell type, and stage-specific splicing factors. To better understand constitutive and alternative pre-mRNA splicing, the authors describe a comparative genomics approach, using available mammalian genomes, to systematically identify splicing regulatory elements located in the introns proximal to exons. A quarter of the elements were tested experimentally, and most of them altered splicing in human cells. The authors also showed that that the intronic elements are close to tissue-specific alternative exons and are more likely to be located in specific positions in the introns, suggestive of potential regulatory function. These elements are also frequently found in tissue-specific genes, suggesting a coupling between expression and alternative splicing of these genes. Finally, the authors propose a strategy using the elements to identify the binding sites of several splicing factors.
The essential splicing factor SF2/ASF and the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 (hnRNP A1) modulate alternative splicing in vitro of pre-mRNAs that contain 5' splice sites of comparable strengths competing for a common 3' splice site. Using natural and model pre-mRNAs, we have examined whether the ratio of SF2/ASF to hnRNP A1 also regulates other modes of alternative splicing in vitro. We found that an excess of SF2/ASF effectively prevents inappropriate exon skipping and also influences the selection of mutually exclusive tissue-specific exons in natural beta-tropomyosin pre-mRNA. In contrast, an excess of hnRNP A1 does not cause inappropriate exon skipping in natural constitutively or alternatively spliced pre-mRNAs. Although hnRNP A1 can promote alternative exon skipping, this effect is not universal and is dependent, e.g., on the size of the internal alternative exon and on the strength of the polypyrimidine tract in the preceding intron. With appropriate alternative exons, an excess of SF2/ASF promotes exon inclusion, whereas an excess of hnRNP A1 causes exon skipping. We propose that in some cases the ratio of SF2/ASF to hnRNP A1 may play a role in regulating alternative splicing by exon inclusion or skipping through the antagonistic effects of these proteins on alternative splice site selection.
Variations in new splicing regulatory elements are difficult to identify exclusively by sequence inspection and may result in deleterious effects on precursor (pre) mRNA splicing. These mutations can result in either complete skipping of the exon, retention of the intron, or the introduction of a new splice site within an exon or intron. Sometimes mutations that do not disrupt or create a splice site activate pre-existing pseudo splice sites, consistent with the proposal that introns contain splicing inhibitory sequences. These variants can also affect the fine balance of isoforms produced by alternatively spliced exons and in consequence cause disease. Available genomic pathology data reveal that we are still partly ignorant of the basic mechanisms that underlie the pre-mRNA splicing process. The fact that human pathology can provide pointers to new modulatory elements of splicing should be exploited.
The regulation of gene expression through alternative pre-mRNA splicing is common in metazoans and is often controlled by intracellular signaling pathways that are important in cell physiology. We have shown that the alternative splicing of a number of genes is controlled by membrane depolarization and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IV (CaMKIV) through CaMKIV-responsive RNA elements (CaRRE1 and CaRRE2); however, the trans-acting factors remain unknown. Here we show that the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) L is a CaRRE1 binding factor in nuclear extracts. An hnRNP L high affinity CA (cytidine-adenosine) repeat element is sufficient to mediate CaMKIV and hnRNP L repression of splicing in a location (3′-splice site proximity)-dependent way. Depletion of hnRNP L by RNA interference followed by rescue with coexpressed exogenous hnRNP L demonstrates that hnRNP L mediates the CaMKIV-regulated splicing through CA repeats in heterologous contexts. Depletion of hnRNP L also led to increased inclusion of the stress axis-regulated exon and a CA repeat-harboring exon under depolarization or with activated CaMKIV. Moreover, hnRNP L binding to CaRRE1 was increased by CaMKIV and, conversely, was reduced by pretreatments with protein phosphatases. Therefore, hnRNP L is an essential component of CaMKIV-regulated alternative splicing through CA repeats, with its phosphorylation likely playing a critical role.
PMID: 19017650 CAMSID: cams2374
Errors during the pre-mRNA splicing of metazoan genes can degrade the transmission of genetic information, and have been associated with a variety of human diseases. In order to characterize the mutagenic and pathogenic potential of mis-splicing, we have surveyed and quantified the aberrant splice variants in the human hypoxanthine phosphoribosyl transferase (HPRT) and DNA polymerase β (POLB) in the presence and the absence of the Nonsense Mediated Decay (NMD) pathway, which removes transcripts with premature termination codons. POLB exhibits a high frequency of splice variants (40–60%), whereas the frequency of HPRT splice variants is considerably lower (∼1%). Treatment of cells with emetine to inactivate NMD alters both the spectrum and frequency of splice variants of POLB and HPRT. It is not certain at this point, whether POLB and HPRT splice variants are the result of regulated alternative splicing processes or the result of aberrant splicing, but it appears likely that at least some of the variants are the result of splicing errors. Several mechanisms that may contribute to aberrant splicing are discussed.
Auxiliary cis elements and trans-acting factors are required for the recognition of constitutive and alternatively spliced exons and their inclusion in pre-mRNA. Genome-wide analyses can aid in the identification of the regulatory elements that direct alternative splicing.
Alternative splicing of pre-mRNAs is central to the generation of diversity from the relatively small number of genes in metazoan genomes. Auxiliary cis elements and trans-acting factors are required for the recognition of constitutive and alternatively spliced exons and their inclusion in pre-mRNA. Here, we discuss the regulatory elements that direct alternative splicing and how genome-wide analyses can aid in their identification.
One of the most common splice variations are small exon length variations caused by the use of alternative donor or acceptor splice sites that are in very close proximity on the pre-mRNA. Among these, three-nucleotide variations at so-called NAGNAG tandem acceptor sites have recently attracted considerable attention, and it has been suggested that these variations are regulated and serve to fine-tune protein forms by the addition or removal of a single amino acid. In this paper we first show that in-frame exon length variations are generally overrepresented and that this overrepresentation can be quantitatively explained by the effect of nonsense-mediated decay. Our analysis allows us to estimate that about 50% of frame-shifted coding transcripts are targeted by nonsense-mediated decay. Second, we show that a simple physical model that assumes that the splicing machinery stochastically binds to nearby splice sites in proportion to the affinities of the sites correctly predicts the relative abundances of different small length variations at both boundaries. Finally, using the same simple physical model, we show that for NAGNAG sites, the difference in affinities of the neighboring sites for the splicing machinery accurately predicts whether splicing will occur only at the first site, splicing will occur only at the second site, or three-nucleotide splice variants are likely to occur. Our analysis thus suggests that small exon length variations are the result of stochastic binding of the spliceosome at neighboring splice sites. Small exon length variations occur when there are nearby alternative splice sites that have similar affinity for the splicing machinery.
It has recently become clear that splice variation affects most mammalian genes. It is, however, less clear to what extent these splice variations are functional and regulated by the cell as opposed to simply a result of noise in the splicing process.
One of the most frequently observed forms of splice variation are small variations in exon length in which the boundary of an exon is shifted by small amounts between different transcripts. In this work the authors study the statistics of these splice variations in detail, and the results suggest that these variations are mostly the result of noise in the splicing process. In particular, they propose a simple physical model in which the last step of splicing involves the sequence-specific binding of the splicing machinery to the splice site. In this model, small length variations can occur when there are nearby splice sites with comparable affinity for the splicing machinery. The authors show that this model not only accurately predicts the relative abundances of different splice variations but also predicts which splice sites are likely to undergo small exon length variations.
Although multiple regulatory elements and protein factors are known to regulate the non-neuronal pathway of alternative processing of the calcitonin/calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) pre-mRNA, the mechanisms controlling the neuron-specific pathway have remained elusive. Here we report the identification of Fox-1 and Fox-2 proteins as novel regulators that mediate the neuron-specific splicing pattern. Fox-1 and Fox-2 proteins function to repress exon 4 inclusion, and this effect depends on two UGCAUG elements surrounding the 3′ splice site of the calcitonin-specific exon 4. In neuron-like cells, mutation of a subset of UGCAUG elements promotes the non-neuronal pattern in which exon 4 is included. In HeLa cells, overexpression of Fox-1 or Fox-2 protein decreases exon 4 inclusion. Fox-1 and Fox-2 proteins interact with the UGCAUG elements specifically and regulate splicing by blocking U2AF65 binding to the 3′ splice site upstream of exon 4. We further investigated the inter-relationship between the UGCAUG silencer elements and the previously identified intronic and exonic splicing regulatory elements and found that exon 4 is regulated by an intricate balance of positive and negative regulation. These results define a critical role for Fox-1 and Fox-2 proteins in exon 4 inclusion of calcitonin/CGRP pre-mRNA and establish a regulatory network that controls the fate of exon 4.
Alternative splicing plays an important role in regulation of bovine papillomavirus type 1 (BPV-1) gene expression. We have recently identified in BPV-1 late pre-mRNAs two purine-rich exonic splicing enhancers (SE1 and SE2) which also stimulate splicing of a Drosophila doublesex (dsx) pre-mRNA containing a suboptimal 3' splice site. In vivo studies now demonstrate that both SE1 and SE2 are required for preferential use of the BPV-1 nucleotide (nt) 3225 3' splice site in nonpermissive cells. Deletion or mutation of either element in a BPV-1 late pre-mRNA switches splicing to the late-specific alternative 3' splice site at nt 3605. To investigate the sequence specificity of these exonic splicing enhancers, various mutant SE1 or SE2 elements were connected to dsx pre-mRNAs and tested for their stimulatory effects on dsx pre-mRNA splicing in vitro. Substitution of U residues for either A or G residues in and around potential ASF/SF2 binding sites in SE1 or SE2 resulted in a significant reduction of splicing enhancer activity. However, the G-to-U substitutions in both enhancers had the largest effect, reducing splicing to near control levels. Further in vitro analyses showed that splicing enhancement by SE2 could be competed with excess unlabeled SE2 RNA, indicating that SE2 activity in HeLa nuclear extracts is mediated by trans-acting factors. UV cross-linking plus immunoprecipitation assays showed that both wild-type SE1 and SE2 RNAs could bind directly to purified HeLa SR proteins SRp30a (ASF/SF2), SRp55, and SRp75. UV cross-linking experiments also identified a 23-kDa protein which binds to SE2 but not SE1. This protein is present in both HeLa nuclear extracts and S100 extracts but absent from SR protein preparations, suggesting that it is not a classical SR protein. Mutant SE elements (containing G- to U-mutations) which had minimal splicing enhancer activity also had very weak binding capacity for these proteins, strongly suggesting that the binding of these proteins is required for splicing enhancer function.
Bovine papillomavirus type 1 (BPV-1) late pre-mRNAs are spliced in keratinocytes in a differentiation-specific manner: the late leader 5′ splice site alternatively splices to a proximal 3′ splice site (at nucleotide 3225) to express L2 or to a distal 3′ splice site (at nucleotide 3605) to express L1. Two exonic splicing enhancers, each containing two ASF/SF2 (alternative splicing factor/splicing factor 2) binding sites, are located between the two 3′ splice sites and have been identified as regulating alternative 3′ splice site usage. The present report demonstrates for the first time that ASF/SF2 is required under physiological conditions for the expression of BPV-1 late RNAs and for selection of the proximal 3′ splice site for BPV-1 RNA splicing in DT40-ASF cells, a genetically engineered chicken B-cell line that expresses only human ASF/SF2 controlled by a tetracycline-repressible promoter. Depletion of ASF/SF2 from the cells by tetracycline greatly decreased viral RNA expression and RNA splicing at the proximal 3′ splice site while increasing use of the distal 3′ splice site in the remaining viral RNAs. Activation of cells lacking ASF/SF2 through anti-immunoglobulin M-B-cell receptor cross-linking rescued viral RNA expression and splicing at the proximal 3′ splice site and enhanced Akt phosphorylation and expression of the phosphorylated serine/arginine-rich (SR) proteins SRp30s (especially SC35) and SRp40. Treatment with wortmannin, a specific phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt kinase inhibitor, completely blocked the activation-induced activities. ASF/SF2 thus plays an important role in viral RNA expression and splicing at the proximal 3′ splice site, but activation-rescued viral RNA expression and splicing in ASF/SF2-depleted cells is mediated through the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt pathway and is associated with the enhanced expression of other SR proteins.