Alternative splicing of the pyruvate kinase M gene involves a choice between mutually exclusive exons 9 and 10. Use of exon 10 to generate the M2 isoform is crucial for aerobic glycolysis (the Warburg effect) and tumour growth. We previously demonstrated that splicing enhancer elements that activate exon 10 are mainly found in exon 10 itself, and deleting or mutating these elements increases the inclusion of exon 9 in cancer cells. To systematically search for new enhancer elements in exon 10 and develop an effective pharmacological method to force a switch from PK-M2 to PK-M1, we carried out an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) screen. We found potent ASOs that target a novel enhancer in exon 10 and strongly switch the splicing of endogenous PK-M transcripts to include exon 9. We further show that the ASO-mediated switch in alternative splicing leads to apoptosis in glioblastoma cell lines, and this is caused by the downregulation of PK-M2, and not by the upregulation of PK-M1. These data highlight the potential of ASO-mediated inhibition of PK-M2 splicing as therapy for cancer.
alternative splicing; antisense oligonucleotides; cancer
Alternative splicing of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGF-R2) transcripts involves the mutually exclusive usage of exons IIIb and IIIc to produce two different receptor isoforms. Appropriate splicing of exon IIIb in rat prostate cancer DT3 cells requires a previously described cis element (ISAR, for “intronic splicing activator and repressor”) which represses the splicing of exon IIIc and activates the splicing of exon IIIb. This element is nonfunctional in rat prostate AT3 cells, which repress exon IIIb inclusion and splice to exon IIIc. We have now identified an intronic element upstream of exon IIIb that causes repression of exon IIIb splicing. Deletion of this element abrogates the requirement for ISAR in order for exon IIIb to be spliced in DT3 cells and causes inappropriate inclusion of exon IIIb in AT3 cells. This element consists of two intronic splicing silencer (ISS) sequences, ISS1 and ISS2. The ISS1 sequence is pyrimidine rich, and in vitro cross-linking studies demonstrate binding of polypyrimidine tract binding protein (PTB) to this element. Competition studies demonstrate that mutations within ISS1 that abolish PTB binding in vitro alleviate splicing repression in vivo. Cotransfection of a PTB-1 expression vector with a minigene containing exon IIIb and the intronic splicing silencer element demonstrate PTB-mediated repression of exon IIIb splicing. Furthermore, all described PTB isoforms were equally capable of mediating this effect. Our results support a model of splicing regulation in which exon IIIc splicing does not represent a default splicing pathway but rather one in which active repression of exon IIIb splicing occurs in both cells and in which DT3 cells are able to overcome this repression in order to splice exon IIIb.
Unlike normal cells, which metabolize glucose by oxidative phosphorylation for efficient energy production, tumor cells preferentially metabolize glucose by aerobic glycolysis, which produces less energy but facilitates the incorporation of more glycolytic metabolites into the biomass needed for rapid proliferation. The metabolic shift from oxidative phosphorylation to aerobic glycolysis is partly achieved by a switch in the splice isoforms of the glycolytic enzyme pyruvate kinase. While normal cells express the pyruvate kinase M1 isoform (PKM1), tumor cells predominantly express the M2 isoform (PKM2). Switching from PKM1 to PKM2 promotes aerobic glycolysis and provides a selective advantage for tumor formation. The PKM1/M2 isoforms are generated through alternative splicing of two mutually exclusive exons. A recent study demonstrates that the alternative splicing event is controlled by heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) family members hnRNPA1, hnRNPA2, and polypyrimidine tract binding protein (PTB; also known as hnRNPI). These findings not only provide additional evidence that alternative splicing plays an important role in tumorigenesis, but also shed light on the molecular mechanism by which hnRNP proteins regulate cell proliferation in cancer.
The Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (Dscam) gene has essential roles in neural wiring and pathogen recognition in Drosophila melanogaster. Dscam encodes 38,016 distinct isoforms via extensive alternative splicing. The 95 alternative exons in Dscam are organized into clusters that are spliced in a mutually exclusive manner. The exon 6 cluster contains 48 variable exons and uses a complex system of competing RNA structures to ensure that only one variable exon is included. Here we show that the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein hrp36 acts specifically within, and throughout, the exon 6 cluster to prevent the inclusion of multiple exons. Moreover, hrp36 prevents serine/arginine-rich proteins from promoting the ectopic inclusion of multiple exon 6 variants. Thus, the fidelity of mutually exclusive splicing in the exon 6 cluster is governed by an intricate combination of alternative RNA structures and a globally acting splicing repressor.
Drosophila Dscam encodes 38,016 distinct axon guidance receptors through the mutually exclusive alternative splicing of 95 variable exons. Importantly, known mechanisms that ensure the mutually exclusive splicing of pairs of exons cannot explain this phenomenon in Dscam. I have identified two classes of conserved elements in the Dscam exon 6 cluster, which contains 48 alternative exons—the docking site, located in the intron downstream of constitutive exon 5, and the selector sequences, which are located upstream of each exon 6 variant. Strikingly, each selector sequence is complementary to a portion of the docking site, and this pairing juxtaposes one, and only one, alternative exon to the upstream constitutive exon. The mutually exclusive nature of the docking site:selector sequence interactions suggests that the formation of these competing RNA structures is a central component of the mechanism guaranteeing that only one exon 6 variant is included in each Dscam mRNA.
Expression of the mammalian pyruvate kinase M (PKM) gene provides an important example of mutually exclusive splicing. We showed previously that the hnRNP proteins A1, A2 and PTB play a critical role in this process. Here we provide evidence that concentration-dependent interactions involving a network of these proteins are sufficient to determine the outcome of PKM splicing. At high concentrations, such as found in most cancer cells, hnRNP A1 binding to two sites in the upstream regulated exon (exon 9) orchestrates cooperative interactions leading to exon 9 exclusion. At lower concentrations, binding shifts to downstream intronic sites such that exon 9 is included and exon 10 largely excluded, with any mRNA including both exons degraded by nonsense-mediated decay. Together our results provide a mechanism by which a small number of general factors control alternative splicing of a widely expressed transcript.
The fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 gene contains a pair of mutually exclusive alternative exons, one of which (K-SAM) is spliced specifically in epithelial cells. We have described previously (F. Del Gatto and R. Breathnach, Mol. Cell. Biol. 15:4825-4834, 1995) some elements controlling K-SAM exon splicing, namely weak exon splice sites, an exon-repressing sequence, and an intron-activating sequence. We identify here two additional sequences in the intron downstream from the K-SAM exon which activate splicing of the exon. The first sequence (intron-activating sequence 2 [IAS2]) lies 168 to 186 nucleotides downstream from the exon's 5' splice site. The second sequence (intron-activating sequence 3 [IAS3]) lies 933 to 1,052 nucleotides downstream from the exon's 5' splice site. IAS3 is a complex region composed of several parts, one of which (nucleotides 963 to 983) can potentially form an RNA secondary structure with IAS2. This structure is composed of two stems separated by an asymmetric bulge. Mutations which disrupt either stem decrease activation, while compensatory mutations which reestablish the stem restore activation, either completely or partially, depending on the mutation. We present a model for K-SAM exon splicing involving the intervention of multiple, interdependent pre-mRNA sequence elements.
We examine here the roles of cellular splicing factors and virus regulatory proteins in coordinately regulating alternative splicing of the tat/rev mRNA of equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV). This bicistronic mRNA contains four exons; exons 1 and 2 encode Tat, and exons 3 and 4 encode Rev. In the absence of Rev expression, the four-exon mRNA is synthesized exclusively, but when Rev is expressed, exon 3 is skipped to produce an mRNA that contains only exons 1, 2, and 4. We identify a purine-rich exonic splicing enhancer (ESE) in exon 3 that promotes exon inclusion. Similar to other cellular ESEs that have been identified by other laboratories, the EIAV ESE interacted specifically with SR proteins, a group of serine/arginine-rich splicing factors that function in constitutive and alternative mRNA splicing. Substitution of purines with pyrimidines in the ESE resulted in a switch from exon inclusion to exon skipping in vivo and abolished binding of SR proteins in vitro. Exon skipping was also induced by expression of EIAV Rev. We show that Rev binds to exon 3 RNA in vitro, and while the precise determinants have not been mapped, Rev function in vivo and RNA binding in vitro indicate that the RNA element necessary for Rev responsiveness overlaps or is adjacent to the ESE. We suggest that EIAV Rev promotes exon skipping by interfering with SR protein interactions with RNA or with other splicing factors.
Mutually exclusive splicing of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) exons IIIb and IIIc yields two receptor isoforms, FGFR2-IIIb and -IIIc, with distinctly different ligand binding properties. Several RNA cis elements in the intron (intron 8) separating these exons have been described that are required for splicing regulation. Using a heterologous splicing reporter, we have identified a new regulatory element in this intron that confers cell-type-specific inclusion of an unrelated exon that mirrors its ability to promote cell-type-specific inclusion of exon IIIb. This element promoted inclusion of exon IIIb while at the same time silencing exon IIIc inclusion in cells expressing FGFR2-IIIb; hence, we have termed this element ISE/ISS-3 (for “intronic splicing enhancer-intronic splicing silencer 3”). Silencing of exon IIIc splicing by ISE/ISS-3 was shown to require a branch point sequence (BPS) using G as the primary branch nucleotide. Replacing a consensus BPS with A as the primary branch nucleotide resulted in constitutive splicing of exon IIIc. Our results suggest that the branch point sequence constitutes an important component that can contribute to the efficiency of exon definition of alternatively spliced cassette exons. Noncanonical branch points may thus facilitate cell-type-specific silencing of regulated exons by flanking cis elements.
Alternative splicing of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) occurs in a cell-type-specific manner with the mutually exclusive use of exon IIIb or exon IIIc. Specific inclusion of exon IIIb is observed in epithelial cells, whereas exon IIIc inclusion is seen in mesenchymal cells. Epithelium-specific activation of exon IIIb and repression of exon IIIc are coordinately regulated by intronic activating sequence 2 (IAS2) and intronic splicing activator and repressor (ISAR) elements in FGFR2 pre-mRNA. Previously, it has been suggested that IAS2 and a 20-nucleotide core sequence of ISAR form a stem structure that allows for the proper regulation of FGFR2 alternative splicing. Replacement of IAS2 and the ISAR core with random sequences capable of stem formation resulted in the proper activation of exon IIIb and repression of exon IIIc in epithelial cells. Given the high degree of phylogenetic conservation of the IAS2-ISAR core structure and the fact that unrelated stem-forming sequences could functionally substitute for IAS2 and ISAR elements, we postulated that the stem structure facilitated the approximation of intronic control elements. Indeed, deletion of the entire stem-loop region and juxtaposition of sequences immediately upstream of IAS2 with sequences immediately downstream of the ISAR core maintained proper cell-type-specific inclusion of exon IIIb. These data demonstrate that IAS2 and the ISAR core are dispensable for the cell-type-specific activation of exon IIIb; thus, the major, if not the sole, role of the IAS2-ISAR stem in exon IIIb activation is to approximate sequences upstream of IAS2 with sequences downstream of the ISAR core. The downstream sequence is very likely a highly conserved GCAUG element, which we show was required for efficient exon IIIb activation.
The cell type-specific, mutually-exclusive alternative splicing
of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) pre-mRNA is tightly
regulated. A sequence termed ISAR (intronic splicing activator and repressor)
has been implicated as an important cis regulatory
element in both activation of exon IIIb and repression of exon IIIc
splicing in epithelial cells. In order to better understand how
this single sequence could have dual roles, we transfected minigenes
containing a series of 2-bp mutations in the 18 3′-most
nucleotides of ISAR that we refer to as the ISAR core. Transfection
of cells with dual-exon (IIIb and IIIc) minigenes revealed that
mutation of terminal sequences of the core led to decreased exon
IIIb inclusion and increased exon IIIc inclusion. Transfection of
cells with single-exon IIIb minigenes and single-exon IIIc minigenes
revealed that mutation of terminal sequences of the ISAR
core led to decreased exon IIIb inclusion and increased exon IIIc inclusion,
respectively. Nucleotides of the ISAR core responsible for exon
IIIb activation appear to overlap very closely with those required
for exon IIIc repression. We describe a model in which ISAR and
a 5′ intronic sequence known
as IAS2 form a stem structure required for simultaneous exon IIIb
activation and exon IIIc repression.
Two alternative exons, BEK and K-SAM, code for part of the ligand binding site of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2. Splicing of these exons is mutually exclusive, and the choice between them is made in a tissue-specific manner. We identify here pre-mRNA sequences involved in controlling splicing of the K-SAM exon. The short K-SAM exon sequence 5'-TAGGGCAGGC-3' inhibits splicing of the exon. This inhibition can be overcome by mutating either the exon's 5' or 3' splice site to make it correspond more closely to the relevant consensus sequence. Two separate sequence elements in the intron immediately downstream of the K-SAM exon, one of which is a sequence rich in pyrimidines, are both needed for efficient K-SAM exon splicing. This is no longer the case if either the exon's 5' or 3' splice site is reinforced. Furthermore, if the exon inhibitory sequence is removed, the intron sequences are not required for splicing of the K-SAM exon in a cell line which normally splices this exon. At least three elements are thus involved in controlling splicing of the K-SAM exon: suboptimal 5' and 3' splice sites, an exon inhibitory sequence, and intron activating sequences.
The chicken beta tropomyosin gene generates three major transcripts by alternative splicing. A pair of internal exons are spliced in a mutually exclusive manner and their utilisation is developmentally regulated. Exon 6A and exon 6B are used respectively in myoblasts and myotubes during the process of differentiation of muscle cells. We have previously reported that, in myoblasts, exon 6B is skipped because of a negative regulation which involves intron as well as exon sequences. In this report, we describe a previously uncharacterized intronic element which is involved in the regulation of the splicing of both exons 6A and 6B. This cis-element is localized 37nt downstream of exon 6A and is approximately 30nt long. Its deletion, as well as modification of its sequence, results in the activation of the use of exon 6B and, at the same time, in the inhibition of the use of exon 6A. The mechanisms by which this region could act are further discussed.
The inclusion of exons 2 and 3 of α-tropomyosin is governed through tissue-specific alternative splicing. These exons are mutually exclusive, with exon 2 included in smooth muscle cells and exon 3 included in nearly all other cell types. Several cis-acting sequences contribute to this splicing decision: the branchpoints and pyrimidine tracts upstream of both exons, UGC-repeat elements flanking exon 3, and a series of purine-rich enhancers in exon 2. Previous work showed that proteins rich in serine-arginine (SR) dipeptides act through the exon 2 enhancers, but the specific proteins responsible for such activation remained unknown. Here we show that a 35-kDa member of the SR protein family, 9G8, can activate the splicing of α-tropomyosin exon 2. Using RNA affinity chromatography and cross-linking competition assays, we also demonstrate that the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs) H and F bind to and compete for the same elements. Overexpression of hnRNPs H and F blocked 9G8-mediated splicing both in vivo and in vitro, and small interfering RNA-directed depletion of H and F led to an increase in exon 2 splicing. These data suggest that the activation of exon 2 is dependent on the antagonistic activities of 9G8 and hnRNPs H and F.
Alternative splicing of pre-mature RNA is an important process eukaryotes utilize to increase their repertoire of different protein products. Several types of different alternative splice forms exist including exon skipping, differential splicing of exons at their 3'- or 5'-end, intron retention, and mutually exclusive splicing. The latter term is used for clusters of internal exons that are spliced in a mutually exclusive manner.
We have implemented an extension to the WebScipio software to search for mutually exclusive exons. Here, the search is based on the precondition that mutually exclusive exons encode regions of the same structural part of the protein product. This precondition provides restrictions to the search for candidate exons concerning their length, splice site conservation and reading frame preservation, and overall homology. Mutually exclusive exons that are not homologous and not of about the same length will not be found. Using the new algorithm, mutually exclusive exons in several example genes, a dynein heavy chain, a muscle myosin heavy chain, and Dscam were correctly identified. In addition, the algorithm was applied to the whole Drosophila melanogaster X chromosome and the results were compared to the Flybase annotation and an ab initio prediction. Clusters of mutually exclusive exons might be subsequent to each other and might encode dozens of exons.
This is the first implementation of an automatic search for mutually exclusive exons in eukaryotes. Exons are predicted and reconstructed in the same run providing the complete gene structure for the protein query of interest. WebScipio offers high quality gene structure figures with the clusters of mutually exclusive exons colour-coded, and several analysis tools for further manual inspection. The genome scale analysis of all genes of the Drosophila melanogaster X chromosome showed that WebScipio is able to find all but two of the 28 annotated mutually exclusive spliced exons and predicts 39 new candidate exons. Thus, WebScipio should be able to identify mutually exclusive spliced exons in any query sequence from any species with a very high probability. WebScipio is freely available to academics at http://www.webscipio.org.
Increasing evidence points to the functional importance of alternative splice variations in cancer pathophysiology with the alternative pre-mRNA processing of caspase 9 as one example. In this study, we delve into the underlying molecular mechanisms that regulate the alternative splicing of caspase 9. Specifically, the pre-mRNA sequence of caspase 9 was analyzed for RNA cis-elements known to interact with SRSF1, a required enhancer for caspase 9 RNA splicing. This analysis revealed thirteen possible RNA cis-elements for interaction with SRSF1 with mutagenesis of these RNA cis-elements identifying a strong intronic splicing enhancer located in intron 6 (C9-I6/ISE). SRSF1 specifically interacted with this sequence, which was required for SRSF1 to act as a splicing enhancer of the inclusion of the four exon cassette. To further determine the biological importance of this mechanism, we employed RNA oligonucleotides to redirect caspase 9 pre-mRNA splicing in favor of caspase 9b expression, which resulted in an increase in the IC50 of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells to daunorubicin, cisplatinum, and paclitaxel. In contrast, downregulation of caspase 9b induced a decrease in the the IC50 of these chemotherapeutic drugs. Lastly, these studies demonstrated that caspase 9 RNA splicing was a major mechanism for the synergistic effects of combination therapy with daunorubicin and erlotinib. Overall, we have identified a novel intronic splicing enhancer that regulates caspase 9 RNA splicing and specifically interacts with SRSF1. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the alternative splicing of caspase 9 is an important molecular mechanism with therapeutic relevance to NSCLCs.
ceramide; non-small cell lung cancer; RNA trans-factor; tumor repressor; oncogene; ASF/SF2; SRp30a; SRSF1; chemotherapy; erlotinib; daunorubicin; cisplatinum; paclitaxel
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is an embryonic program used by cancer cells to acquire invasive capabilities becoming metastatic. ΔRon, a constitutively active isoform of the Ron tyrosine kinase receptor, arises from skipping of Ron exon 11 and provided the first example of an alternative splicing variant causatively linked to the activation of tumor EMT. Splicing of exon 11 is controlled by two adjacent regulatory elements, a silencer and an enhancer of splicing located in exon 12. The alternative splicing factor and oncoprotein SRSF1 directly binds to the enhancer, induces the production of ΔRon and activates EMT leading to cell locomotion. Interestingly, we now find an important role for hnRNP A1 in controlling the activity of the Ron silencer. HnRNP A1 is able to antagonize the binding of SRSF1 and prevent exon skipping. Notably, hnRNP A1, by inhibiting the production of ΔRon, activates the reversal program, namely the mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition, which instead occurs at the final metastasis sites. Also, hnRNP A1 affects Ron splicing by regulating the expression level of hnRNP A2/B1, which similarly to SRSF1 can promote ΔRon production. These results shed light on how splicing regulation contributes to the tumor progression and provide potential targets to develop anticancer therapies.
A large fraction of protein-coding genes in metazoans undergo alternative pre-mRNA splicing in tissue- or cell-type-specific manners. Recent genome-wide approaches have identified many putative-binding sites for some of tissue-specific trans-acting splicing regulators. However, the mechanisms of splicing regulation in vivo remain largely unknown. To elucidate the modes of splicing regulation by the neuron-specific CELF family RNA-binding protein UNC-75 in Caenorhabditis elegans, we performed deep sequencing of poly(A)+ RNAs from the unc-75(+)- and unc-75-mutant worms and identified more than 20 cassette and mutually exclusive exons repressed or activated by UNC-75. Motif searches revealed that (G/U)UGUUGUG stretches are enriched in the upstream and downstream introns of the UNC-75-repressed and -activated exons, respectively. Recombinant UNC-75 protein specifically binds to RNA fragments carrying the (G/U)UGUUGUG stretches in vitro. Bi-chromatic fluorescence alternative splicing reporters revealed that the UNC-75-target exons are regulated in tissue-specific and (G/U)UGUUGUG element-dependent manners in vivo. The unc-75 mutation affected the splicing reporter expression specifically in the nervous system. These results indicate that UNC-75 regulates alternative splicing of its target exons in neuron-specific and position-dependent manners through the (G/U)UGUUGUG elements in C. elegans. This study thus reveals the repertoire of target events for the CELF family in the living organism.
When oxygen is abundant, quiescent cells efficiently extract energy from glucose primarily by oxidative phosphorylation, whereas under the same conditions tumour cells consume glucose more avidly, converting it to lactate. This long-observed phenomenon is known as aerobic glycolysis1, and is important for cell growth2,3. Because aerobic glycolysis is only useful to growing cells, it is tightly regulated in a proliferation-linked manner4. Inmammals, this is partly achieved through control of pyruvate kinase isoform expression. The embryonic pyruvate kinase isoform, PKM2, is almost universally re-expressed in cancer2, and promotes aerobic glycolysis, whereas the adult isoform, PKM1, promotes oxidative phosphorylation2. These two isoforms result from mutually exclusive alternative splicing of the PKM pre-mRNA, reflecting inclusion of either exon 9 (PKM1) or exon 10 (PKM2). Here we show that three heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) proteins, polypyrimidine tract binding protein (PTB, also known as hnRNPI), hnRNPA1 and hnRNPA2, bind repressively to sequences flanking exon 9, resulting in exon 10 inclusion. We also demonstrate that the oncogenic transcription factor c-Myc upregulates transcription of PTB, hnRNPA1 and hnRNPA2, ensuring a high PKM2/PKM1 ratio. Establishing a relevance to cancer, we show that human gliomas overexpress c-Myc, PTB, hnRNPA1 and hnRNPA2 in a manner that correlates with PKM2 expression. Our results thus define a pathway that regulates an alternative splicing event required for tumour cell proliferation.
One of the major forms of alternative splicing, which generates multiple mRNA isoforms differing in the precise combinations of their exon sequences, is exon skipping. While in constitutive splicing all exons are included, in the skipped pattern(s) one or more exons are skipped. The regulation of this process is still not well understood; so far, cis- regulatory elements (such as exonic splicing enhancers) were identified in individual cases. We therefore set to investigate the possibility that exon skipping is controlled by sequences in the adjacent introns. We employed a computer analysis on 54 sequences documented as undergoing exon skipping, and identified two motifs both in the upstream and downstream introns of the skipped exons. One motif is highly enriched in pyrimidines (mostly C residues), and the other motif is highly enriched in purines (mostly G residues). The two motifs differ from the known cis-elements present at the 5′ and 3′ splice site. Interestingly, the two motifs are complementary, and their relative positional order is conserved in the flanking introns. These suggest that base pairing interactions can underlie a mechanism that involves secondary structure to regulate exon skipping. Remarkably, the two motifs are conserved in mouse orthologous genes that undergo exon skipping.
The neuron-specific N1 exon of the mouse c-src transcript is normally skipped in nonneuronal cells. In this study, we examined the sequence requirements for the exclusion of this exon in nonneuronal HeLa cell nuclear extracts. We found that the repression of the N1 exon is mediated by specific intron sequences that flank the N1 exon. Mutagenesis experiments identified conserved CUCUCU elements within these intron regions that are required for the repression of N1 splicing. The addition of an RNA competitor containing the upstream regulatory sequence to the HeLa extract induced splicing of the intron downstream of N1, indicating that the competitor sequence binds to splicing repressor proteins. The similarities between this mechanism for src splicing repression and the repression of other regulated exons point to a common role of exon-spanning interactions in splicing repression.
Alternative splicing controls the activity of many proteins important for neuronal excitation, but the signal-transduction pathways that affect spliced isoform expression are not well understood. One particularly interesting system of alternative splicing is exon 21 (E21) of the NMDA receptor 1 (NMDAR1 E21), which controls the trafficking of NMDA receptors to the plasma membrane and is repressed by Ca++/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMK) IV signaling. Here, we characterize the splicing of NMDAR1 E21. We find that E21 splicing is reversibly repressed by neuronal depolarization, and we identify two RNA elements within the exon that function together to mediate the inducible repression. One of these exonic elements is similar to an intronic CaMK IV–responsive RNA element (CaRRE) originally identified in the 3′ splice site of the BK channel STREX exon, but not previously observed within an exon. The other element is a new RNA motif. Introduction of either of these two motifs, called CaRRE type 1 and CaRRE type 2, into a heterologous constitutive exon can confer CaMK IV–dependent repression on the new exon. Thus, either exonic CaRRE can be sufficient for CaMK IV–induced repression. Single nucleotide scanning mutagenesis defined consensus sequences for these two CaRRE motifs. A genome-wide motif search and subsequent RT-PCR validation identified a group of depolarization-regulated alternative exons carrying CaRRE consensus sequences. Many of these exons are likely to alter neuronal function. Thus, these two RNA elements define a group of co-regulated splicing events that respond to a common stimulus in neurons to alter their activity.
Alternative splicing of NMDA receptor 1 exon 21 is reversibly repressed by depolarization in a CaMK IV-dependent manner in neurons. This suggests splicing is finely tuned by dynamic activity inputs.
Multiple mechanisms direct changes in neuronal activity in response to external stimuli, ranging from short-acting modifications of membrane proteins to longer-acting changes in gene expression. A frequently regulated step in gene expression is the pre-mRNA splicing reaction in which the inclusion of exons (protein-coding sequences) or the position of splice sites produces alternatively spliced mRNA isoforms encoding functionally different proteins. Here, we study splicing of the NMDA receptor, which responds to the neurotransmitter glutamate to modify neuronal activity. We show that the splicing of an important exon (E21) in the NMDA receptor subunit NR1 mRNA is repressed by cell depolarization and activation of the intracellular signaling molecule, CaMK IV. We find that this splicing repression is mediated by two regulatory sequences within the exon itself. One sequence is similar to a previously described regulatory element that had not been known to function in an exon. The other is a new element. The characterization of these elements as a family of degenerate sequences allowed the identification of a group of exons sharing responsiveness to cell depolarization and CamK IV. These results define a new set of gene expression changes that may occur in modulating neuronal activity.
The smooth muscle (SM) and nonmuscle (NM) isoforms of α-actinin are produced by mutually exclusive splicing of an upstream NM exon and a downstream SM-specific exon. A rat α-actinin genomic clone encompassing the mutually exclusive exons was isolated and sequenced. The SM exon was found to utilize two branch points located 382 and 386 nucleotides (nt) upstream of the 3′ splice site, while the NM exon used a single branch point 191 nt upstream. Mutually exclusive splicing arises from the proximity of the SM branch points to the NM 5′ splice site, and this steric repression could be relieved in part by the insertion of spacer elements. In addition, the SM exon is repressed in non-SM cells and extracts. In vitro splicing of spacer-containing transcripts could be activated by (i) truncation of the transcript between the SM polypyrimidine tract and exon, (ii) addition of competitor RNAs containing the 3′ end of the actinin intron or regulatory sequences from α-tropomyosin (TM), and (iii) depletion of the splicing extract by using biotinylated α-TM RNAs. A number of lines of evidence point to polypyrimidine tract binding protein (PTB) as the trans-acting factor responsible for repression. PTB was the only nuclear protein observed to cross-link to the actinin RNA, and the ability of various competitor RNAs to activate splicing correlated with their ability to bind PTB. Furthermore, repression of α-actinin splicing in the nuclear extracts depleted of PTB by using biotinylated RNA could be specifically restored by the addition of recombinant PTB. Thus, α-actinin mutually exclusive splicing is enforced by the unusual location of the SM branch point, while constitutive repression of the SM exon is conferred by regulatory elements between the branch point and 3′ splice site and by PTB.
Alternative splicing of fibroblast growth factor receptor-2 (FGFR2) mutually exclusive exons IIIb and IIIc results in highly cell-type-specific expression of functionally distinct receptors, FGFR2-IIIb and FGFR2-IIIc. We previously identified an RNA cis-element, ISE/ISS-3, that enhanced exon IIIb splicing and silenced exon IIIc splicing. Here, we have performed comprehensive mutational analysis to define critical sequence motifs within this element that independently either enhance splicing of upstream exons or repress splicing of downstream exons. Such analysis included use of a novel fluorescence-based splicing reporter assay that allowed quantitative determination of relative functional activity of ISE/ISS-3 mutants using flow cytometric analysis of live cells. We determined that specific sequences within this element that mediate splicing enhancement also mediate splicing repression, depending on their position relative to a regulated exon. Thus, factors that bind the element are likely to be coordinately involved in mediating both aspects of splicing regulation. Exon IIIc silencing is dependent upon a suboptimal branchpoint sequence containing a guanine branchpoint nucleotide. Previous studies of exon IIIc splicing in HeLa nuclear extracts demonstrated that this guanine branchsite primarily impaired the second step of splicing suggesting that ISE/ISS-3 may block exon IIIc inclusion at this step. However, results presented here that include use of newly developed in vitro splicing assays of FGFR2 using extracts from a cell line expressing FGFR2-IIIb strongly suggest that cell-type-specific silencing of exon IIIc occurs at or prior to the first step of splicing.
The human alpha-tropomyosin gene hTMnm has two mutually exclusive versions of exon 5 (NM and SK), one of which is expressed specifically in skeletal muscle (exon SK). A minigene construct expresses only the nonmuscle (NM) isoform when transfected into COS-1 cells and both forms when transfected into myoblasts. Twenty-four mutants were produced to determine why the SK exon is not expressed in COS cells. The results showed that exons NM and SK are not in competition for splicing to the flanking exons and that there is no intrinsic barrier to splicing between the exons. Instead, exon SK is skipped whenever there are flanking introns. Splicing of exon SK was induced when the branch site sequence 70 nucleotides upstream of the exon was mutated to resemble the consensus and when the extremities of the exon itself were changed to the corresponding NM sequence. Precise swaps of the NM and SK exon sequences showed that the exon sequence effect was dominant to that of intron sequences. The mechanism of regulation appears to be unlike that of other tropomyosin genes. We propose that exclusion of exon SK arises because its 3' splicing signals are weak and are prevented by an exon-specific repressor from competing for splice site recognition.