Mammalian SR proteins are a family of reversibly phosphorylated RNA binding proteins primarily studied for their roles in alternative splicing. While budding yeast lack alternative splicing, they do have three SR-like proteins: Npl3, Gbp2, and Hrb1. However, these have been best characterized for their roles in mRNA export, leaving their potential roles in splicing largely unexplored. Here we combined high-density genetic interaction profiling and genome-wide splicing-sensitive microarray analysis to demonstrate that a single SR-like protein, Npl3, is required for efficient splicing of a large set of pre-mRNAs in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We tested the hypothesis that Npl3 promotes splicing by facilitating co-transcriptional recruitment of splicing factors. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation, we showed that mutation of NPL3 reduces the occupancy of U1 and U2 snRNPs at at genes whose splicing is stimulated by Npl3. This result provides strong evidence that an SR protein can promote recruitment of splicing factors to chromatin.
Despite intensive research, there are very few reagents with which to modulate and dissect the mRNA splicing pathway. Here, we describe a novel approach to identify such tools, based on detection of the exon junction complex (EJC), a unique molecular signature that splicing leaves on mRNAs. We developed a high-throughput, splicing-dependent EJC immunoprecipitation (EJIPT) assay to quantitate mRNAs spliced from biotin-tagged pre-mRNAs in cell extracts, using antibodies to EJC components Y14 and eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4aIII (eIF4AIII). Deploying EJIPT we performed high-throughput screening (HTS) in conjunction with secondary assays to identify splicing inhibitors. We describe the identification of 1,4-naphthoquinones and 1,4-heterocyclic quinones with known anticancer activity as potent and selective splicing inhibitors. Interestingly, and unlike previously described small molecules, most of which target early steps, our inhibitors represented by the benzothiazole-4,7-dione, BN82685, block the second of two trans-esterification reactions in splicing, preventing the release of intron lariat and ligation of exons. We show that BN82685 inhibits activated spliceosomes' elaborate structural rearrangements that are required for second-step catalysis, allowing definition of spliceosomes stalled in midcatalysis. EJIPT provides a platform for characterization and discovery of splicing and EJC modulators.
Messenger RNA splicing is an essential and complex process for the removal of intron sequences. Whereas the composition of the splicing machinery is mostly known, the kinetics of splicing, the catalytic activity of splicing factors and the interdependency of transcription, splicing and mRNA 3′ end formation are less well understood. We propose a stochastic model of splicing kinetics that explains data obtained from high-resolution kinetic analyses of transcription, splicing and 3′ end formation during induction of an intron-containing reporter gene in budding yeast. Modelling reveals co-transcriptional splicing to be the most probable and most efficient splicing pathway for the reporter transcripts, due in part to a positive feedback mechanism for co-transcriptional second step splicing. Model comparison is used to assess the alternative representations of reactions. Modelling also indicates the functional coupling of transcription and splicing, because both the rate of initiation of transcription and the probability that step one of splicing occurs co-transcriptionally are reduced, when the second step of splicing is abolished in a mutant reporter.
The coding information for the synthesis of proteins in mammalian cells is first transcribed from DNA to messenger RNA (mRNA), before being translated from mRNA to protein. Each step is complex, and subject to regulation. Certain sequences of DNA must be skipped in order to generate a functional protein, and these sequences, known as introns, are removed from the mRNA by the process of splicing. Splicing is well understood in terms of the proteins and complexes that are involved, but the rates of reactions, and models for the splicing pathways, have not yet been established. We present a model of splicing in yeast that accounts for the possibilities that splicing may take place while the mRNA is in the process of being created, as well as the possibility that splicing takes place once mRNA transcription is complete. We assign rates to the reactions in the pathway, and show that co-transcriptional splicing is the preferred pathway. In order to reach these conclusions, we compare a number of alternative models by a quantitative computational method. Our analysis relies on the quantitative measurement of messenger RNA in live cells - this is a major challenge in itself that has only recently been addressed.
High-throughput immunoprecipitation (IP) studies of transcription factors and splicing factors have revolutionized the fields of transcription and splicing. Recent location studies on Nova1/2 and Fox2 have identified a set of cellular targets of these splicing factors. One problem with identifying binding sites for splicing factors arises from the transient role of RNA in gene expression. The primary role of most splicing factors is to bind pre-mRNA co-transcriptionally and participate in the extremely rapid process of splice site selection and catalysis. Pre-mRNA is a labile species with a steady state level that is three orders of magnitude less abundant than mRNA. As many splicing factors also bind mRNA to some degree, these substrates tend to dominate the output of location studies. Here we present an in-vitro method for screening RNA protein interactions that circumvents these problems. We screen approximately 4000 alternatively spliced exons and the entire Hepatitis C genome for binding of ASF/SF2, the only splicing factor demonstrated to function as an oncogene. From the pre-mRNA sequences returned in this screen we discovered physiologically relevant ASF recognition element motifs. ASF binds two motifs: a C-rich and a purine rich motif. Comparisons with similar data derived from the hnRNP protein PTB reveals little overlap between strong PTB and ASF/SF2 sites. We illustrate how this method could be employed to screen disease alleles with the set of small molecules that have been shown to alter splicing in search for therapies for splicing diseases.
In eukaryotic cells, there is evidence for functional coupling between transcription and processing of pre-mRNAs. To better understand this coupling, we performed a high-resolution kinetic analysis of transcription and splicing in budding yeast. This revealed that shortly after induction of transcription, RNA polymerase accumulates transiently around the 3′ end of the intron on two reporter genes. This apparent transcriptional pause coincides with splicing factor recruitment and with the first detection of spliced mRNA and is repeated periodically thereafter. Pausing requires productive splicing, as it is lost upon mutation of the intron and restored by suppressing the splicing defect. The carboxy-terminal domain of the paused polymerase large subunit is hyperphosphorylated on serine 5, and phosphorylation of serine 2 is first detected here. Phosphorylated polymerase also accumulates around the 3′ splice sites of constitutively expressed, endogenous yeast genes. We propose that transcriptional pausing is imposed by a checkpoint associated with cotranscriptional splicing.
► RNA polymerase II pauses at the 3′ end of an intron ► RNA polymerase II pausing depends on productive splicing ► Dynamic phosphorylation of polymerase changes according to intron splicing status ► We propose a transcriptional checkpoint that responds to cotranscriptional splicing
Bioactive compounds have been invaluable for dissecting the mechanisms, regulation, and functions of cellular processes. However, very few such reagents have been described for pre-mRNA splicing. To facilitate their systematic discovery, we developed a high-throughput cell-based assay that measures pre-mRNA splicing by utilizing a quantitative reporter system with advantageous features. The reporter, consisting of a destabilized, intron-containing luciferase expressed from a short-lived mRNA, allows rapid screens (<4 h), thereby obviating the potential toxicity of splicing inhibitors. We describe three inhibitors (out of >23,000 screened), all pharmacologically active: clotrimazole, flunarizine, and chlorhexidine. Interestingly, none was a general splicing inhibitor. Rather, each caused distinct splicing changes of numerous genes. We further discovered the target of action of chlorhexidine and show that it is a selective inhibitor of specific Cdc2-like kinases (Clks) that phosphorylate serine-arginine-rich (SR) protein splicing factors. Our findings reveal unexpected activities of clinically used drugs in splicing and uncover differential regulation of constitutively spliced introns.
Genetic and biochemical studies of Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Saccharomyces cerevisiae have identified gene products that play essential functions in both pre-mRNA splicing and cell cycle control. Among these are the conserved, Myb-related CDC5 (also known as Cef1p in S. cerevisiae) proteins. The mechanism by which loss of CDC5/Cef1p function causes both splicing and cell cycle defects has been unclear. Here we provide evidence that cell cycle arrest in a new temperature-sensitive CEF1 mutant, cef1-13, is an indirect consequence of defects in pre-mRNA splicing. Although cef1-13 cells harbor global defects in pre-mRNA splicing discovered through intron microarray analysis, inefficient splicing of the α-tubulin-encoding TUB1 mRNA was considered as a potential cause of the cef1-13 cell cycle arrest because cef1-13 cells arrest uniformly at G2/M with many hallmarks of a defective microtubule cytoskeleton. Consistent with this possibility, cef1-13 cells possess reduced levels of total TUB1 mRNA and α-tubulin protein. Removing the intron from TUB1 in cef1-13 cells boosts TUB1 mRNA and α-tubulin expression to near wild-type levels and restores microtubule stability in the cef1-13 mutant. As a result, cef1-13 tub1Δi cells progress through mitosis and their cell cycle arrest phenotype is alleviated. Removing the TUB1 intron from two other splicing mutants that arrest at G2/M, prp17Δ and prp22-1 strains, permits nuclear division, but suppression of the cell cycle block is less efficient. Our data raise the possibility that although cell cycle arrest phenotypes in prp mutants can be explained by defects in pre-mRNA splicing, the transcript(s) whose inefficient splicing contributes to cell cycle arrest is likely to be prp mutant dependent.
We have recently reported the first example of inverse splicing of a eukaryotic pre-mRNA intron using a whole cell extract from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The concomitant circularization of the exon in the course of this splicing reaction gave rise to the hypothesis that the circular RNA species, which had been recently discovered in vivo in mammalian cells, were generated by inverse splicing. Here we report the formation of a circular exon in HeLa cell nuclear extracts by an inverse splicing reaction of the second intron of the human beta-globin gene from a pre-mRNA transcript in which the two intron halves flanked an artificially fused, single exon. Our data demonstrate that the mammalian pre-mRNA splicing system has indeed an intrinsic capability of aligning splice sites in reverse order and that this alignment can be followed by a complete splicing reaction, whereby the discontinuous intron sequences are removed. Thus we propose that circular exons in vivo arise as a result of an inverse splicing reaction following the pairing of a 5' splice site with an upstream 3' splice site and that the frequency of this event is influenced by the presence and strength of other, competing splice sites.
In the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a number of PRP genes known to be involved in pre-mRNA processing have been genetically identified and cloned. Three PRP genes (PRP2, PRP16, and PRP22) were shown to encode putative RNA helicases of the family of proteins with DEAH boxes. However, any such splicing factor containing the helicase motifs in vertebrates has not been identified. To identify human homologs of this family, we designed PCR primers corresponding to the highly conserved region of the DEAH box protein family and successfully amplified five cDNA fragments, using HeLa poly(A)+ RNA as a substrate. One fragment, designated HRH1 (human RNA helicase 1), is highly homologous to Prp22, which was previously shown to be involved in the release of spliced mRNAs from the spliceosomes. Expression of HRH1 in a S. cerevisiae prp22 mutant can partially rescue its temperature-sensitive phenotype. These results strongly suggest that HRH1 is a functional human homolog of the yeast Prp22 protein. Interestingly, HRH1 but not Prp22 contains an arginine- and serine-rich domain (RS domain) which is characteristic of some splicing factors, such as members of the SR protein family. We could show that HRH1 can interact in vitro and in the yeast two-hybrid system with members of the SR protein family through its RS domain. We speculate that HRH1 might be targeted to the spliceosome through this interaction.
Splicing of RNA polymerase II (polII) transcripts is a crucial step in gene expression and a key generator of mRNA diversity. Splicing and transcription have been generally been studied in isolation, although in vivo pre-mRNA splicing occurs in concert with transcription. The two processes appear to be functionally connected because a number of variables that regulate transcription have been identified as also influencing splicing. However, the mechanisms that couple the two processes are largely unknown. In this review, I highlight the observations that implicate splicing as occurring during transcription and describe the evidence supporting functional interactions between the two processes. I discuss postulated models of how splicing couples to transcription and consider the potential impact that such coupling might have on exon recognition.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been used as a model system to investigate the mechanisms of pre-mRNA splicing but only a few examples of alternative splice site usage have been described in this organism. Using RNA-Seq analysis of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) mutant strains, we show that many S. cerevisiae intron-containing genes exhibit usage of alternative splice sites, but many transcripts generated by splicing at these sites are non-functional because they introduce premature termination codons, leading to degradation by NMD. Analysis of splicing mutants combined with NMD inactivation revealed the role of specific splicing factors in governing the use of these alternative splice sites and identified novel functions for Prp17p in enhancing the use of branchpoint-proximal upstream 3′ splice sites and for Prp18p in suppressing the usage of a non-canonical AUG 3′-splice site in GCR1. The use of non-productive alternative splice sites can be increased in stress conditions in a promoter-dependent manner, contributing to the down-regulation of genes during stress. These results show that alternative splicing is frequent in S. cerevisiae but masked by RNA degradation and that the use of alternative splice sites in this organism is mostly aimed at controlling transcript levels rather than increasing proteome diversity.
Accurate gene expression requires the transfer of gene information from DNA to RNA. When DNA is transcribed into RNA, part of the RNA needs to be removed (spliced) to generate a proper copy of the genetic information. This process needs to be very accurate to preserve the genetic information that will be transferred into proteins. Our study shows that in baker's yeast, the splicing process does not always produce the correctly spliced products, as RNA splicing events frequently utilize incorrect splice sites. However, these deficient RNA molecules are eliminated from cells by a quality control mechanism to preserve the integrity of the genetic information. However, incorrect splicing is not useless, as it can be used to regulate the quantity of RNA that is generated.
Light is one of the most important factors regulating plant growth and development. Light-sensing photoreceptors tightly regulate gene expression to control photomorphogenic responses. Although many levels of gene expression are modulated by photoreceptors, regulation at the mRNA splicing step remains unclear.
We performed high-throughput mRNA sequencing to analyze light-responsive changes in alternative splicing in the moss Physcomitrella patens, and found that a large number of alternative splicing events were induced by light in the moss protonema. Light-responsive intron retention preferentially occurred in transcripts involved in photosynthesis and translation. Many of the alternatively spliced transcripts were expressed from genes with a function relating to splicing or light signaling, suggesting a potential impact on pre-mRNA splicing and photomorphogenic gene regulation in response to light. Moreover, most light-regulated intron retention was induced immediately upon light exposure, while motif analysis identified a repetitive GAA motif that may function as an exonic regulatory cis element in light-mediated alternative splicing. Further analysis in gene-disrupted mutants was consistent with a function for multiple red-light photoreceptors in the upstream regulation of light-responsive alternative splicing.
Our results indicate that intensive alternative splicing occurs in non-vascular plants and that, during photomorphogenesis, light regulates alternative splicing with transcript selectivity. We further suggest that alternative splicing is rapidly fine-tuned by light to modulate gene expression and reorganize metabolic processes, and that pre-mRNA cis elements are involved in photoreceptor-mediated splicing regulation.
In conventionally-expressed eukaryotic genes, transcription start sites (TSSs) can be identified by mapping the mature mRNA 5′-terminal sequence onto the genome. However, this approach is not applicable to genes that undergo pre-mRNA 5′-leader trans-splicing (SL trans-splicing) because the original 5′-segment of the primary transcript is replaced by the spliced leader sequence during the trans-splicing reaction and is discarded. Thus TSS mapping for trans-spliced genes requires different approaches. We describe two such approaches and show that they generate precisely agreeing results for an SL trans-spliced gene encoding the muscle protein troponin I in the ascidian tunicate chordate Ciona intestinalis. One method is based on experimental deletion of trans-splice acceptor sites and the other is based on high-throughput mRNA 5′-RACE sequence analysis of natural RNA populations in order to detect minor transcripts containing the pre-mRNA’s original 5′-end. Both methods identified a single major troponin I TSS located ∼460 nt upstream of the trans-splice acceptor site. Further experimental analysis identified a functionally important TATA element 31 nt upstream of the start site. The two methods employed have complementary strengths and are broadly applicable to mapping promoters/TSSs for trans-spliced genes in tunicates and in trans-splicing organisms from other phyla.
trans splicing of a spliced-leader RNA (SL RNA) to the 5′ ends of mRNAs has been shown to have a limited and sporadic distribution among eukaryotes. Within metazoans, only nematodes are known to process polycistronic pre-mRNAs, produced from operon units of transcription, into mature monocistronic mRNAs via an SL RNA trans-splicing mechanism. Here we demonstrate that a chordate with a highly compact genome, Oikopleura dioica, now joins Caenorhabditis elegans in coupling trans splicing with processing of polycistronic transcipts. We identified a single SL RNA which associates with Sm proteins and has a trimethyl guanosine cap structure reminiscent of spliceosomal snRNPs. The same SL RNA, estimated to be trans-spliced to at least 25% of O. dioica mRNAs, is used for the processing of both isolated or first cistrons and downstream cistrons in a polycistronic precursor. Remarkably, intercistronic regions in O. dioica are far more reduced than those in either nematodes or kinetoplastids, implying minimal cis-regulatory elements for coupling of 3′-end formation and trans splicing.
Splicing enhancers are RNA sequences required for accurate splice site recognition and the control of alternative splicing. In this study, we used an in vitro selection procedure to identify and characterize novel RNA sequences capable of functioning as pre-mRNA splicing enhancers. Randomized 18-nucleotide RNA sequences were inserted downstream from a Drosophila doublesex pre-mRNA enhancer-dependent splicing substrate. Functional splicing enhancers were then selected by multiple rounds of in vitro splicing in nuclear extracts, reverse transcription, and selective PCR amplification of the spliced products. Characterization of the selected splicing enhancers revealed a highly heterogeneous population of sequences, but we identified six classes of recurring degenerate sequence motifs five to seven nucleotides in length including novel splicing enhancer sequence motifs. Analysis of selected splicing enhancer elements and other enhancers in S100 complementation assays led to the identification of individual enhancers capable of being activated by specific serine/arginine (SR)-rich splicing factors (SC35, 9G8, and SF2/ASF). In addition, a potent splicing enhancer sequence isolated in the selection specifically binds a 20-kDa SR protein. This enhancer sequence has a high level of sequence homology with a recently identified RNA-protein adduct that can be immunoprecipitated with an SRp20-specific antibody. We conclude that distinct classes of selected enhancers are activated by specific SR proteins, but there is considerable sequence degeneracy within each class. The results presented here, in conjunction with previous studies, reveal a remarkably broad spectrum of RNA sequences capable of binding specific SR proteins and/or functioning as SR-specific splicing enhancers.
We have tested the fate of a circularized synthetic pre-mRNA transcript in a whole cell splicing extract of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Our results demonstrate that this circular precursor RNA is able to induce spliceosome formation in vitro and that the products of the following splicing reaction are the lariat-shaped intron, and a mature circular mRNA. Thus, it would appear that free 5' and/or 3' ends are not obligatory for a splicing reaction to occur, although we find its efficiency to be strongly influenced by the presence or lack of free ends. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that a circular pre-mRNA molecule is recognized as a suitable substrate by an eukaryotic mRNA splicing apparatus.
Some familial neurodegenerative diseases are associated with mutations that destabilize a putative stem-loop structure within an intronic region of the tau pre-mRNA and alter the production of tau protein isoforms by alternative splicing. Since stabilization of the stem loop reverses the splicing pattern associated with neurodegeneration, small molecules that stabilize this stem loop would provide new ways to dissect the mechanism of neurodegeneration and treat tauopathies. The anti-cancer drug mitoxantrone was recently identified in a high throughput screen to stabilize the tau pre-mRNA stem loop. Here we report the solution structure of the tau mRNA-mitoxantrone complex, validated by the structure-activity relationship of existing mitoxantrone analogs. The structure describes the molecular basis for their interaction with RNA and provides a rational basis to optimize the activity of this new class of RNA-binding molecules.
Tauopathies; Targeting RNA; RNA-small molecule; NMR
Alternative or regulated splicing can be applied to genes that are transcribed but whose products may be deleterious or unnecessary to the cell. In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, positive splicing regulation occurs during meiosis in which diploid cells divide to form haploid gametes. The Mer1 protein recruits the U1 snRNP to specific pre-mRNAs, permitting spliceosomal assembly and splicing. The mature transcripts are required for meiotic progression and, subsequently, sporulation. We have identified a novel allele (snu56-2) of the essential U1 snRNP protein Snu56p that exhibits a sporulation defect. Using a CUP1 reporter assay and reverse transcriptase PCR, we demonstrate that this allele specifically impairs Mer1p-activated splicing. This is not a reflection of a generally deficient spliceosome, as these cells splice vegetative transcripts efficiently. Furthermore, Snu56p depletion in vivo does not significantly impact mitotic splicing. Thus, its splicing function appears to be limited to Mer1p-activated meiosis-specific splicing. Two-hybrid studies indicate that Snu56p interacts with the other two U1 snRNP factors (Mer1p and Nam8p) required for this process. Interestingly, these two proteins do not interact, suggesting that Snu56p links pre-mRNA-bound Mer1p to Nam8p in the U1 snRNP. This work demonstrates that the Snu56 protein is required for splicing only during meiosis.
An essential pre-mRNA splicing factor, the product of the PRP38 gene, has been genetically identified in a screen of temperature-sensitive mutants of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Shifting temperature-sensitive prp38 cultures from 23 to 37 degrees C prevents the first cleavage-ligation event in the excision of introns from mRNA precursors. In vitro splicing inactivation and complementation studies suggest that the PRP38-encoded factor functions, at least in part, after stable splicing complex formation. The PRP38 locus contains a 726-bp open reading frame coding for an acidic 28-kDa polypeptide (PRP38). While PRP38 lacks obvious structural similarity to previously defined splicing factors, heat inactivation of PRP38, PRP19, or any of the known U6 (or U4/U6) small nuclear ribonucleoprotein-associating proteins (i.e., PRP3, PRP4, PRP6, and PRP24) leads to a common, unexpected consequence: intracellular U6 small nuclear RNA (snRNA) levels decrease as splicing activity is lost. Curiously, U4 snRNA, normally extensively base paired with U6 snRNA, persists in the virtual absence of U6 snRNA.
A sensitive, high-throughput method for monitoring pre-mRNA splicing on a genomic scale is needed to understand the spectrum of alternatively spliced mRNA in human cells.
We adapted Molecular Inversion Probes (MIPs), a padlock-probe based technology, for the multiplexed capture and quantitation of individual splice events in human tissues. Individual MIP capture probes can be quantified using either DNA microarrays or high-throughput sequencing, which permits independent assessment of each spliced junction. Using our methodology we successfully identified 100% of our positive controls and showed that there is a strong correlation between the data from our alternative splicing MIP (asMIP) assay and quantitative PCR.
The asMIP assay provides a sensitive, accurate and multiplexed means for measuring pre-mRNA splicing. Fully optimized, we estimate that the assay could accommodate a throughput of greater than 20,000 splice junctions in a single reaction. This would represent a significant improvement over existing technologies.
We have identified six new genes whose products are necessary for the splicing of nuclear pre-mRNA in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. A collection of 426 temperature-sensitive yeast strains was generated by EMS mutagenesis. These mutants were screened for pre-mRNA splicing defects by an RNA gel blot assay, using the intron- containing CRY1 and ACT1 genes as hybridization probes. We identified 20 temperature-sensitive mutants defective in pre-mRNA splicing. Twelve appear to be allelic to the previously identified prp2, prp3, prp6, prp16/prp23, prp18, prp19 or prp26 mutations that cause defects in spliceosome assembly or the first or second step of splicing. One is allelic to SNR14 encoding U4 snRNA. Six new complementation groups, prp29-prp34, were identified. Each of these mutants accumulates unspliced pre-mRNA at 37 degrees C and thus is blocked in spliceosome assembly or early steps of pre-mRNA splicing before the first cleavage and ligation reaction. The prp29 mutation is suppressed by multicopy PRP2 and displays incomplete patterns of complementation with prp2 alleles, suggesting that the PRP29 gene product may interact with that of PRP2. There are now at least 42 different gene products, including the five spliceosomal snRNAs and 37 different proteins that are necessary for pre-mRNA splicing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. However, the number of yeast genes identifiable by this approach has not yet been exhausted.
Appropriate expression of most eukaryotic genes requires the removal of introns from their pre–messenger RNAs (pre-mRNAs), a process catalyzed by the spliceosome. In higher eukaryotes a large family of auxiliary factors known as SR proteins can improve the splicing efficiency of transcripts containing suboptimal splice sites by interacting with distinct sequences present in those pre-mRNAs. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae lacks functional equivalents of most of these factors; thus, it has been unclear whether the spliceosome could effectively distinguish among transcripts. To address this question, we have used a microarray-based approach to examine the effects of mutations in 18 highly conserved core components of the spliceosomal machinery. The kinetic profiles reveal clear differences in the splicing defects of particular pre-mRNA substrates. Most notably, the behaviors of ribosomal protein gene transcripts are generally distinct from other intron-containing transcripts in response to several spliceosomal mutations. However, dramatically different behaviors can be seen for some pairs of transcripts encoding ribosomal protein gene paralogs, suggesting that the spliceosome can readily distinguish between otherwise highly similar pre-mRNAs. The ability of the spliceosome to distinguish among its different substrates may therefore offer an important opportunity for yeast to regulate gene expression in a transcript-dependent fashion. Given the high level of conservation of core spliceosomal components across eukaryotes, we expect that these results will significantly impact our understanding of how regulated splicing is controlled in higher eukaryotes as well.
The spliceosome is a large RNA-protein machine responsible for removing the noncoding (intron) sequences that interrupt eukaryotic genes. Nearly everything known about the behavior of this machine has been based on the analysis of only a handful of genes, despite the fact that individual introns vary greatly in both size and sequence. Here we have utilized a microarray-based platform that allows us to simultaneously examine the behavior of all intron-containing genes in the budding yeast S. cerevisiae. By systematically examining the effects of individual mutants in the spliceosome on the splicing of all substrates, we have uncovered a surprisingly complex relationship between the spliceosome and its full complement of substrates. Contrary to the idea that the spliceosome engages in “generic” interactions with all intron-containing substrates in the cell, our results show that the identity of the transcript can differentially affect splicing efficiency when the machine is subtly perturbed. We propose that the wild-type spliceosome can also distinguish among its many substrates as external conditions warrant to function as a specific regulator of gene expression.
Many eukaryotic gene transcripts are spliced; here the authors show that components of the splicing complex can distinguish between different introns in highly homologous transcripts.
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.
Most retained introns found in human cDNAs generated by high-throughput sequencing projects seem to result from underspliced transcripts, and thus they capture intermediate steps of pre-mRNA splicing. On the other hand, mutations in splice sites cause exon skipping of the respective exon or activation of pre-existing cryptic sites. Both types of events reflect properties of the splicing mechanism.
The retained introns were significantly shorter than constitutive ones, and skipped exons are shorter than exons with cryptic sites. Both donor and acceptor splice sites of retained introns were weaker than splice sites of constitutive introns. The authentic acceptor sites affected by mutations were significantly weaker in exons with activated cryptic sites than in skipped exons. The distance from a mutated splice site to the nearest equivalent site is significantly shorter in cases of activated cryptic sites compared to exon skipping events. The prevalence of retained introns within genes monotonically increased in the 5'-to-3' direction (more retained introns close to the 3'-end), consistent with the model of co-transcriptional splicing. The density of exonic splicing enhancers was higher, and the density of exonic splicing silencers lower in retained introns compared to constitutive ones and in exons with cryptic sites compared to skipped exons.
Thus the analysis of retained introns in human cDNA, exons skipped due to mutations in splice sites and exons with cryptic sites produced results consistent with the intron definition mechanism of splicing of short introns, co-transcriptional splicing, dependence of splicing efficiency on the splice site strength and the density of candidate exonic splicing enhancers and silencers. These results are consistent with other, recently published analyses.
Post-transcriptional processing of pre-mRNA takes place in several steps and requires involvement of a number of RNA-binding proteins. How pre-mRNA processing is regulated is in large enigmatic. The catalytic (C) subunit of protein kinase A (PKA) is a serine/threonine kinase, which regulates numerous cellular processes including pre-mRNA splicing. Despite that a significant fraction of the C subunit is found in splicing factor compartments in the nucleus, there are no indications of a direct interaction between RNA and PKA. Based on this we speculate if the specificity of the C subunit in regulating pre-mRNA splicing may be mediated indirectly through other nuclear proteins.
Using yeast two-hybrid screening with the PKA C subunit Cbeta2 as bait, we identified the G-patch domain and KOW motifs-containing protein (GPKOW), also known as the T54 protein or MOS2 homolog, as an interaction partner for Cbeta2. We demonstrate that GPKOW, which contains one G-patch domain and two KOW motifs, is a nuclear RNA-binding protein conserved between species. GPKOW contains two sites that are phosphorylated by PKA in vitro. By RNA immunoprecipitation and site directed mutagenesis of the PKA phosphorylation sites we revealed that GPKOW binds RNA in vivo in a PKA sensitive fashion.
GPKOW is a RNA-binding protein that binds RNA in a PKA regulated fashion. Together with our previous results demonstrating that PKA regulates pre-mRNA splicing, our results suggest that PKA phosphorylation is involved in regulating RNA processing at several steps.
RNA processing; phosphorylation; PKA catalytic subunit; GPKOW