Human ADAM12, transcript variant 1 (later on referred to as Var-1b), present in publicly available databases contains the sequence 5′-GTAATTCTG-3′ at the nucleotide positions 340–348 of the coding region, at the 3′ end of exon 4. The translation product of this variant, ADAM12-Lb, includes the three amino acid motif 114VIL116 in the prodomain. This motif is not conserved in ADAM12 from different species and is not present in other human ADAMs. Currently, it is not clear whether a shorter variant, Var-1a, encoding the protein version without the 114VIL116 motif, ADAM12-La, is expressed in human. In this work, we have established that human mammary epithelial cells and breast cancer cells express both Var-1a and Var-1b transcripts. Importantly, the proteolytic processing and intracellular trafficking of the corresponding ADAM12-La and ADAM12-Lb proteins are different. While ADAM12-La is cleaved and trafficked to the cell surface in a manner similar to ADAM12 in other species, ADAM12-Lb is retained in the ER and is not proteolytically processed. Furthermore, the relative abundance of ADAM12-La and ADAM12-Lb proteins detected in several breast cancer cell lines varies significantly. We conclude that the canonical form of transmembrane ADAM12 is represented by Var-1a/ADAM12-La, rather than Var-1b/ADAM12-Lb currently featured in major sequence databases.
Poliovirus protease 2A (2Apro) obstructs host gene expression by reprogramming transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory events during infection. Here we demonstrate that expression of 2Apro induces a selective nucleo-cytoplasm translocation of several important RNA binding proteins and splicing factors. Subcellular fractionation studies, together with immunofluorescence microscopy revealed an asymmetric distribution of HuR and TIA1/TIAR in 2Apro expressing cells, which modulates splicing of the human Fas exon 6. Consistent with this result, knockdown of HuR or overexpression of TIA1/TIAR, leads to Fas exon 6 inclusion in 2Apro-expressing cells. Therefore, poliovirus 2Apro can target alternative pre-mRNA splicing by regulating protein shuttling between the nucleus and the cytoplasm.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) plays essential roles in protein folding and assembly of secretory proteins. ER-resident molecular chaperones and related enzymes assist in protein maturation by co-operated interactions and modifications. However, the folding/assembly of multimeric proteins is not well understood. Here, we show that the maturation of fibrinogen, a hexameric secretory protein (two trimers from α, β and γ subunits), occurs in a stepwise manner. The αγ complex, a precursor for the trimer, is retained in the ER by lectin-like chaperones, and the β subunit is incorporated into the αγ complex immediately after translation. ERp57, a protein disulfide isomerase homologue, is involved in the hexamer formation from two trimers. Our results indicate that the fibrinogen hexamer is formed sequentially, rather than simultaneously, using kinetic pause by lectin chaperones. This study provides a novel insight into the assembly of most abundant multi-subunit secretory proteins.
Split intein enabled protein trans-splicing (PTS) is a powerful method for the ligation of two protein fragments, thereby paving the way for various protein modification or protein function control applications. PTS activity is strongly influenced by the amino acids directly flanking the splice junctions. However, to date no reliable prediction can be made whether or not a split intein is active in a particular foreign extein context. Here we describe SPLICEFINDER, a PCR-based method, allowing fast and easy screening for active split intein insertions in any target protein. Furthermore we demonstrate the applicability of SPLICEFINDER for segmental isotopic labeling as well as for the generation of multi-domain and enzymatically active proteins.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an inherited neurodegenerative disease caused by homozygous inactivation of the SMN1 gene and reduced levels of the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. Since higher copy numbers of the nearly identical SMN2 gene reduce disease severity, to date most efforts to develop a therapy for SMA have focused on enhancing SMN expression. Identification of alternative therapeutic approaches has partly been hindered by limited knowledge of potential targets and the lack of cell-based screening assays that serve as readouts of SMN function. Here, we established a cell system in which proliferation of cultured mouse fibroblasts is dependent on functional SMN produced from the SMN2 gene. To do so, we introduced the entire human SMN2 gene into NIH3T3 cell lines in which regulated knockdown of endogenous mouse Smn severely decreases cell proliferation. We found that low SMN2 copy number has modest effects on the cell proliferation phenotype induced by Smn depletion, while high SMN2 copy number is strongly protective. Additionally, cell proliferation correlates with the level of SMN activity in small nuclear ribonucleoprotein assembly. Following miniaturization into a high-throughput format, our cell-based phenotypic assay accurately measures the beneficial effects of both pharmacological and genetic treatments leading to SMN upregulation. This cell model provides a novel platform for phenotypic screening of modifiers of SMN2 gene expression and function that act through multiple mechanisms, and a powerful new tool for studies of SMN biology and SMA therapeutic development.
Activation of protein kinase C (PKC) has previously been shown to ameliorate the cholesterol transport defect in Niemann Pick Type C1 (NPC1) cells, presumably by increasing the soluble levels of one of its substrates, vimentin. This activity would then restore the vimentin cycle in these cells and allow vimentin-dependent retrograde transport to proceed. Here, we further investigate the effects of PKC activation in NPC1 cells by evaluating different isoforms for their ability to solubilize vimentin and correct the NPC1 cholesterol storage phenotype. We also examine the effects of PKC activators, including free fatty acids and the PKC-specific activator diazoxide, on the NPC1 disease phenotype. Our results indicate that PKC isoforms α, βII, and ε have the greatest effects on vimentin solubilization. Furthermore, expression or activation of PKCε in NPC1 cells dramatically reduces the amount of stored cholesterol and restores cholesterol transport out of endocytic vesicles. These results provide further support for the contribution of PKCs in NPC1 disease pathogenesis and suggest that PKCs may be targeted in future efforts to develop therapeutics for NPC1 disease.
Translation of mRNA in axons and dendrites enables a rapid supply of proteins to specific sites of localization within the neuron. Distinct mRNA-containing cargoes, including granules and mitochondrial mRNA, are transported within neuronal projections. The distributions of these cargoes appear to change during neuronal development, but details on the dynamics of mRNA transport during these transitions remain to be elucidated. For this study, we have developed imaging and image processing methods to quantify several transport parameters that can define the dynamics of RNA transport and localization. Using these methods, we characterized the transport of mitochondrial and non-mitochondrial mRNA in differentiated axons and dendrites of cultured hippocampal neurons varying in developmental maturity. Our results suggest differences in the transport profiles of mitochondrial and non-mitochondrial mRNA, and differences in transport parameters at different time points, and between axons and dendrites. Furthermore, within the non-mitochondrial mRNA pool, we observed two distinct populations that differed in their fluorescence intensity and velocity. The net axonal velocity of the brighter pool was highest at day 7 (0.002±0.001 µm/s, mean ± SEM), raising the possibility of a presynaptic requirement for mRNA during early stages of synapse formation. In contrast, the net dendritic velocity of the brighter pool increased steadily as neurons matured, with a significant difference between day 12 (0.0013±0.0006 µm/s ) and day 4 (−0.003±0.001 µm/s) suggesting a postsynaptic role for mRNAs in more mature neurons. The dim population showed similar trends, though velocities were two orders of magnitude higher than of the bright particles. This study provides a baseline for further studies on mRNA transport, and has important implications for the regulation of neuronal plasticity during neuronal development and in response to neuronal injury.
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.
Niemann-Pick C (NPC) disease is due to loss of NPC1 or NPC2 protein function that is required for unesterified cholesterol transport from the endosomal/lysosomal compartment. Though lung involvement is a recognized characteristic of Niemann-Pick type C disease, the pathological features are not well understood. We investigated components of the surfactant system in both NPC1 mutant mice and felines and in NPC2 mutant mice near the end of their expected life span. Histological analysis of the NPC mutant mice demonstrated thickened septae and foamy macrophages/leukocytes. At the level of electron microscopy, NPC1-mutant type II cells had uncharacteristically larger lamellar bodies (LB, mean area 2-fold larger), while NPC2-mutant cells had predominantly smaller lamellar bodies (mean area 50% of normal) than wild type. Bronchoalveolar lavage from NPC1 and NPC2 mutant mice had an approx. 4-fold and 2.5-fold enrichment in phospholipid, respectively, and an approx. 9-fold and 35-fold enrichment in cholesterol, consistent with alveolar lipidosis. Phospholipid and cholesterol also were elevated in type II cell LBs and lung tissue while phospholipid degradation was reduced. Enrichment of surfactant protein-A in the lung and surfactant of the mutant mice was found. Immunocytochemical results showed that cholesterol accumulated in the LBs of the type II cells isolated from the affected mice. Alveolar macrophages from the NPC1 and NPC2 mutant mice were enlarged compared to those from wild type mice and were enriched in phospholipid and cholesterol. Pulmonary features of NPC1 mutant felines reflected the disease described in NPC1 mutant mice. Thus, with the exception of lamellar body size, the lung phenotype seen in the NPC1 and NPC2 mutant mice were similar. The lack of NPC1 and NPC2 proteins resulted in a disruption of the type II cell surfactant system contributing to pulmonary abnormalities.
Phosphorylated and truncated TAR DNA-binding protein-43 (TDP-43) is a major component of ubiquitinated cytoplasmic inclusions in neuronal and glial cells of two TDP-43 proteinopathies, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Modifications of TDP-43 are thus considered to play an important role in the pathogenesis of TDP-43 proteinopathies. However, both the initial cause of these abnormal modifications and the TDP-43 region responsible for its aggregation remain uncertain. Here we report that the 32 kDa C-terminal fragment of TDP-43, which lacks the RNP2 motif of RNA binding motif 1 (RRM1), formed aggregates in cultured cells, and that similar phenotypes were obtained when the RNP2 motif was either deleted from or mutated in full-length TDP-43. These aggregations were ubiquitinated, phosphorylated and truncated, and sequestered the 25 kDa C-terminal TDP-43 fragment seen in the neurons of TDP-43 proteinopathy patients. In addition, incubation with RNase decreased the solubility of TDP-43 in cell lysates. These findings suggest that the RNP2 motif of RRM1 plays a substantial role in pathological TDP-43 modifications and that it is possible that disruption of RNA binding may underlie the process of TDP-43 aggregation.
Abnormal processing of TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) has been identified as a major factor in neuronal degeneration during amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). It is unclear how changes to TDP-43, including nuclear to cytosolic translocation and subsequent accumulation, are controlled in these diseases. TDP-43 is a member of the heterogeneous ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) RNA binding protein family and is known to associate with cytosolic RNA stress granule proteins in ALS and FTLD. hnRNP trafficking and accumulation is controlled by the action of specific kinases including members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. However, little is known about how kinase pathways control TDP-43 movement and accumulation. In this study, we used an in vitro model of TDP-43-positve stress granule formation to screen for the effect of kinase inhibitors on TDP-43 accumulation. We found that while a number of kinase inhibitors, particularly of the MAPK pathways modulated both TDP-43 and the global stress granule marker, human antigen R (HuR), multiple inhibitors were more specific to TDP-43 accumulation, including inhibitors of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) and glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3). Close correlation was observed between effects of these inhibitors on TDP-43, hnRNP K and TIAR, but often with different effects on HuR accumulation. This may indicate a potential interaction between TDP-43, hnRNP K and TIAR. CDK inhibitors were also found to reverse pre-formed TDP-43-positive stress granules and both CDK and GSK3 inhibitors abrogated the accumulation of C-terminal TDP-43 (219–414) in transfected cells. Further studies are required to confirm the specific kinases involved and whether their action is through phosphorylation of the TDP-43 binding partner hnRNP K. This knowledge provides a valuable insight into the mechanisms controlling abnormal cytoplasmic TDP-43 accumulation and may herald new opportunities for kinase modulation-based therapeutic intervention in ALS and FTLD.
The crustacean Hyperglycemic Hormone (cHH) is a neuropeptide present in many decapods. Two different chiral isomers are simultaneously present in Astacid crayfish and their specific biological functions are still poorly understood. The present study is aimed at better understanding the potentially different effect of each of the isomers on the hepatopancreatic gene expression profile in the crayfish Pontastacus leptodactylus, in the context of short term hyperglycemia. Hence, two different chemically synthesized cHH enantiomers, containing either L- or D-Phe3, were injected to the circulation of intermolt females following removal of their X organ-Sinus gland complex. The effects triggered by the injection of the two alternate isomers were detected after one hour through measurement of circulating glucose levels. Triggered changes of the transcriptome expression profile in the hepatopancreas were analyzed by RNA-seq. A whole transcriptome shotgun sequence assembly provided the assumedly complete transcriptome of P. leptodactylus hepatopancreas, followed by RNA-seq analysis of changes in the expression level of many genes caused by the application of each of the hormone isomers. Circulating glucose levels were much higher in response to the D-isoform than to the L-isoform injection, one hour from injection. Similarly, the RNA-seq analysis confirmed a stronger effect on gene expression following the administration of D-cHH, while just limited alterations were caused by the L-isomer. These findings demonstrated a more prominent short term effect of the D-cHH on the transcription profile and shed light on the effect of the D-isomer on specific functional gene groups. Another contribution of the study is the construction of a de novo assembly of the hepatopancreas transcriptome, consisting of 39,935 contigs, that dramatically increases the molecular information available for this species and for crustaceans in general, providing an efficient tool for studying gene expression patterns in this organ.
In a number of organisms, introns affect expression of the gene in which they are contained. Our previous studies revealed that the 5′-UTR intron of human ubiquitin C (UbC) gene is responsible for the boost of reporter gene expression and is able to bind, in vitro, Yin Yang 1 (YY1) trans-acting factor. In this work, we demonstrate that intact YY1 binding sequences are required for maximal promoter activity and YY1 silencing causes downregulation of luciferase mRNA levels. However, YY1 motifs fail to enhance gene expression when the intron is moved upstream of the proximal promoter, excluding the typical enhancer hypothesis and supporting a context-dependent action, like intron-mediated enhancement (IME). Yet, almost no expression is seen in the construct containing an unspliceable version of UbC intron, indicating that splicing is essential for promoter activity. Moreover, mutagenesis of YY1 binding sites and YY1 knockdown negatively affect UbC intron removal from both endogenous and reporter transcripts. Modulation of splicing efficiency by YY1 cis-elements and protein factor may thus be part of the mechanism(s) by which YY1 controls UbC promoter activity. Our data highlight the first evidence of the involvement of a sequence-specific DNA binding factor in IME.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is caused by loss of the Survival Motor Neuron 1 (SMN1) gene, resulting in reduced SMN protein. Humans possess the additional SMN2 gene (or genes) that does produce low level of full length SMN, but cannot adequately compensate for loss of SMN1 due to aberrant splicing. The majority of SMN2 gene transcripts lack exon 7 and the resultant SMNΔ7 mRNA is translated into an unstable and non-functional protein. Splice intervention therapies to promote exon 7 retention and increase amounts of full-length SMN2 transcript offer great potential as a treatment for SMA patients. Several splice silencing motifs in SMN2 have been identified as potential targets for antisense oligonucleotide mediated splice modification. A strong splice silencer is located downstream of exon 7 in SMN2 intron 7. Antisense oligonucleotides targeting this motif promoted SMN2 exon 7 retention in the mature SMN2 transcripts, with increased SMN expression detected in SMA fibroblasts. We report here systematic optimisation of phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligonucleotides (PMO) that promote exon 7 retention to levels that rescued the phenotype in a severe mouse model of SMA after intracerebroventricular delivery. Furthermore, the PMO gives the longest survival reported to date after a single dosing by ICV.
The repressor element silencing transcription factor (REST) is a coordinate transcriptional and epigenetic regulator which functions as a tumor suppressor or an oncogene depending on cellular context, and a truncated splice variant REST4 has been linked to various types of cancer. We performed a comprehensive analysis of alternative splicing (AS) of REST by rapid amplification of cDNA ends and PCR amplification of cDNAs from various tissues and cell lines with specific primers. We identified 8 novel alternative exons including an alternate last exon which doubles the REST gene boundary, along with numerous 5′/3′ splice sites and ends in the constitutive exons. With the combination of various splicing patterns (e.g. exon skipping and alternative usage of the first and last exons) that are predictive of altered REST activity, at least 45 alternatively spliced variants of coding and non-coding mRNA were expressed in a species- and cell-type/tissue-specific manner with individual differences. By examining the repertoire of REST pre-mRNA splicing in 27 patients with kidney, liver and lung cancer, we found that all patients without exception showed differential expression of various REST splice variants between paired tumor and adjacent normal tissues, with striking cell-type/tissue and individual differences. Moreover, we revealed that exon 3 skipping, which causes no frame shift but loss of a domain essential for nuclear translocation, was affected by pioglitazone, a highly selective activator of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) which contributes to cell differentiation and tumorigenesis besides its metabolic actions. Accordingly, this study demonstrates an extensive AS of REST pre-mRNA which redefines REST gene boundary and structure, along with a general but differential link between REST pre-mRNA splicing and various types of cancer. These findings advance our understanding of the complex, context-dependent regulation of REST gene expression and function, and provide potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for cancer.
Paraquat (PQ) is a neurotoxic herbicide that induces superoxide formation. Although it is known that its toxic properties are linked to ROS production, the cellular response to PQ is still poorly understood. We reported previously that treatment with PQ induced genome-wide changes in pre-mRNA splicing. Here, we investigated the molecular mechanism underlying PQ-induced pre-mRNA splicing alterations. We show that PQ treatment leads to the phosphorylation and nuclear accumulation of SRPK2, a member of the family of serine/arginine (SR) protein-specific kinases. Concomitantly, we observed increased phosphorylation of SR proteins. Site-specific mutagenesis identified a single serine residue that is necessary and sufficient for nuclear localization of SRPK2. Transfection of a phosphomimetic mutant modified splice site selection of the E1A minigene splicing reporter similar to PQ-treatment. Finally, we found that PQ induces DNA damage and vice versa that genotoxic treatments are also able to promote SRPK2 phosphorylation and nuclear localization. Consistent with these observations, treatment with PQ, cisplatin or γ-radiation promote changes in the splicing pattern of genes involved in DNA repair, cell cycle control, and apoptosis. Altogether, our findings reveal a novel regulatory mechanism that connects PQ to the DNA damage response and to the modulation of alternative splicing via SRPK2 phosphorylation.
Most pathological pseudoexon inclusion events originate from single activating mutations, suggesting that many intronic sequences are on the verge of becoming exons. However, the precise mechanisms controlling pseudoexon definition are still largely unexplored. Here, we investigated the cis-acting elements and trans-acting regulatory factors contributing to the regulation of a previously described fibrinogen gamma-chain (FGG) pseudoexon, which is activated by a deep-intronic mutation (IVS6-320A>T). This pseudoexon contains several G-run elements, which may be bound by heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs) F and H. To explore the effect of these proteins on FGG pseudoexon inclusion, both silencing and overexpression experiments were performed in eukaryotic cells. While hnRNP H did not significantly affect pseudoexon splicing, hnRNP F promoted pseudoexon inclusion, indicating that these two proteins have only partially redundant functions. To verify the binding of hnRNP F and the possible involvement of other trans-acting splicing modulators, pulldown experiments were performed on the region of the pseudoexon characterized by both a G-run and enrichment for exonic splicing enhancers. This 25-bp-long region strongly binds hnRNP F/H and weakly interacts with Serine/Arginine-rich protein 40, which however was demonstrated to be dispensable for FGG pseudoexon inclusion in overexpression experiments. Deletion analysis, besides confirming the splicing-promoting role of the G-run within this 25-bp region, demonstrated that two additional hnRNP F binding sites might instead function as silencer elements. Taken together, our results indicate a major role of hnRNP F in regulating FGG pseudoexon inclusion, and strengthen the notion that G-runs may function either as splicing enhancers or silencers of the same exon.
Usher syndrome type I (USH1) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by congenital profound deafness, vestibular areflexia and prepubertal retinitis pigmentosa. The first purpose of this study was to determine the pathologic nature of eighteen USH1 putative splicing variants found in our series and their effect in the splicing process by minigene assays. These variants were selected according to bioinformatic analysis. The second aim was to analyze the USH1 transcripts, obtained from nasal epithelial cells samples of our patients, in order to corroborate the observed effect of mutations by minigenes in patient’s tissues. The last objective was to evaluate the nasal ciliary beat frequency in patients with USH1 and compare it with control subjects. In silico analysis were performed using four bioinformatic programs: NNSplice, Human Splicing Finder, NetGene2 and Spliceview. Afterward, minigenes based on the pSPL3 vector were used to investigate the implication of selected changes in the mRNA processing. To observe the effect of mutations in the patient’s tissues, RNA was extracted from nasal epithelial cells and RT-PCR analyses were performed. Four MYO7A (c.470G>A, c.1342_1343delAG, c.5856G>A and c.3652G>A), three CDH23 (c.2289+1G>A, c.6049G>A and c.8722+1delG) and one PCDH15 (c.3717+2dupTT) variants were observed to affect the splicing process by minigene assays and/or transcripts analysis obtained from nasal cells. Based on our results, minigenes are a good approach to determine the implication of identified variants in the mRNA processing, and the analysis of RNA obtained from nasal epithelial cells is an alternative method to discriminate neutral Usher variants from those with a pathogenic effect on the splicing process. In addition, we could observe that the nasal ciliated epithelium of USH1 patients shows a lower ciliary beat frequency than control subjects.
Alternative splicing of pre-mRNA is a highly regulated process that allows cells to change their genetic informational output. These changes are mediated by protein factors that directly bind specific pre-mRNA sequences. Although much is known about how these splicing factors regulate pre-mRNA splicing events, comparatively little is known about the regulation of the splicing factors themselves. Here, we show that the Drosophila splicing factor P element Somatic Inhibitor (PSI) is phosphorylated at at least two different sites by at minimum two different kinases, casein kinase II (CK II) and tousled-like kinase (tlk). These phosphorylation events may be important for regulating protein-protein interactions involving PSI. Additionally, we show that PSI interacts with several proteins in Drosophila S2 tissue culture cells, the majority of which are splicing factors.
Placental oxidative stress is a feature of both human labor and the pregnancy syndrome preeclampsia. Heat shock proteins (HSPs) can be induced in cells as a protective mechanism to cope with cellular stress. We hypothesized that HSP 70 would increase during labor and preeclampsia and that expression would vary in different placental zones. Samples were obtained from 12 sites within each placenta: 4 equally spaced apart pieces were sampled from the inner, middle and outer placental regions. Non-labor, labor and preeclampsia were studied. HSP 70 expression was investigated by Western blot analysis. HSP 70 protein expression was increased in the middle compared with the outer area (p = 0.03) in non-labor and in both the inner and middle areas compared with the outer area (p = 0.01 and p = 0.02 respectively) in labor. HSP 70 was increased in the preeclampsia non-labor group compared to the control non-labor group in the inner region (p = 0.003) and in the control labor group compared with the preeclampsia labor group at the middle area (p = 0.001). In conclusion HSP 70 is expressed in a spatial manner in the placenta. Changes in HSP 70 expression occur during labor and preeclampsia but at different zones within the placenta. The physiological and pathological significance of these remains to be elucidated but the results have important implications for how data obtained from studies in placental disease (and other organs) can be influenced by sampling methods.
Chromatin organization affects alternative splicing and previous studies have shown that exons have increased nucleosome occupancy compared with their flanking introns. To determine whether alternative splicing affects chromatin organization we developed a system in which the alternative splicing pattern switched from inclusion to skipping as a function of time. Changes in nucleosome occupancy were correlated with the change in the splicing pattern. Surprisingly, strengthening of the 5′ splice site or strengthening the base pairing of U1 snRNA with an internal exon abrogated the skipping of the internal exons and also affected chromatin organization. Over-expression of splicing regulatory proteins also affected the splicing pattern and changed nucleosome occupancy. A specific splicing inhibitor was used to show that splicing impacts nucleosome organization endogenously. The effect of splicing on the chromatin required a functional U1 snRNA base pairing with the 5′ splice site, but U1 pairing was not essential for U1 snRNA enhancement of transcription. Overall, these results suggest that splicing can affect chromatin organization.
Accumulating evidence suggests that pathogenic TAR DNA-binding protein (TDP)-43 fragments contain a partial RNA-recognition motif domain 2 (RRM2) in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/frontotemporal lobar degeneration. However, the molecular basis for how this domain links to the conformation and function of TDP-43 is unclear. Previous crystal analyses have documented that the RRM2-DNA complex dimerizes under acidic and high salt conditions, mediated by the intermolecular hydrogen bonds of Glu246-Ile249 and Asp247-Asp247. The aims of this study were to investigate the roles of Glu246 and Asp247 in the molecular assembly of RRM2 under physiological conditions, and to evaluate their potential use as markers for TDP-43 misfolding due to the aberrantly exposed dimer interface. Unexpectedly, gel filtration analyses showed that, regardless of DNA interaction, the RRM2 domain remained as a stable monomer in phosphate-buffered saline. Studies using substitution mutants revealed that Glu246 and, especially, Asp247 played a crucial role in preserving the functional RRM2 monomers. Substitution to glycine at Glu246 or Asp247 induced the formation of fibrillar oligomers of RRM2 accompanied by the loss of DNA-binding affinity, which also affected the conformation and the RNA splicing function of full-length TDP-43. A novel monoclonal antibody against peptides containing Asp247 was found to react with TDP-43 inclusions of ALS patients and mislocalized cytosolic TDP-43 in cultured cells, but not with nuclear wild-type TDP-43. Our findings indicate that Glu246 and Asp247 play pivotal roles in the proper conformation and function of TDP-43. In particular, Asp247 should be studied as a molecular target with an aberrant conformation related to TDP-43 proteinopathy.
Niemann-Pick Type C disease (NPC) is a lethal, autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in the NPC1 and NPC2 cholesterol transport proteins. NPC’s hallmark symptoms include an accumulation of unesterified cholesterol and other lipids in the late endosomal and lysosomal cellular compartments, causing progressive neurodegeneration and death. Although the age of onset may vary in those affected, NPC most often manifests in juveniles, and is usually fatal before adolescence. In this study, we investigated the effects of various drugs, many of which modify the epigenetic control of NPC1/NPC2 gene expression, in lowering the otherwise harmful elevated intracellular cholesterol levels in NPC cells. Our studies utilized a previously described image analysis technique, which allowed us to make quantitative comparisons of the efficacy of these drugs in lowering cholesterol levels in a common NPC1 mutant model. Of the drugs analyzed, several that have been previously studied (vorinostat, panobinostat, and β-cyclodextrin) significantly lowered the relative amount of unesterified cellular cholesterol, consistent with earlier observations. In addition, a novel potential treatment, rapamycin, likewise alleviated the NPC phenotype. We also studied combinations of effective compounds with β-cyclodextrin; the addition of β-cyclodextrin significantly enhanced the cholesterol-lowering activity of vorinostat and panobinostat, but had mixed effects with rapamycin. Collectively, these results may provide a basis for the eventual development of improved NPC therapies.
Originally the novel protein Blom7α was identified as novel pre-mRNA splicing factor that interacts with SNEVPrp19/Pso4, an essential protein involved in extension of human endothelial cell life span, DNA damage repair, the ubiquitin-proteasome system, and pre-mRNA splicing. Blom7α belongs to the heteronuclear ribonucleoprotein K homology (KH) protein family, displaying 2 KH domains, a well conserved and widespread RNA-binding motif. In order to identify specific sequence binding motifs, we here used Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential Enrichment (SELEX) with a synthetic RNA library. Besides sequence motifs like (U/A)1–4 C2–6 (U/A)1–5, we identified an AC-rich RNA-aptamer that we termed AK48 (Aptamer KH-binding 48), binding to Blom7α with high affinity. Addition of AK48 to pre-mRNA splicing reactions in vitro inhibited the formation of mature spliced mRNA and led to a slight accumulation of the H complex of the spliceosome. These results suggest that the RNA binding activity of Blom7α might be required for pre-mRNA splicing catalysis. The inhibition of in-vitro splicing by the small RNA AK48 indicates the potential use of small RNA molecules in targeting the spliceosome complex as a novel target for drug development.
Neurofibromatosis (NF1) represents the most common single gene cause of learning disabilities. NF1 patients have impairments in frontal lobe based cognitive functions such as attention, working memory, and inhibition. Due to its well–characterized genetic etiology, investigations of NF1 may shed light on neural mechanisms underlying such difficulties in the general population or other patient groups. Prior neuroimaging findings indicate global brain volume increases, consistent with neural over-proliferation. However, little is known about alterations in white matter microstructure in NF1. We performed diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) analyses using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) in 14 young adult NF1 patients and 12 healthy controls. We also examined brain volumetric measures in the same subjects. Consistent with prior studies, we found significantly increased overall gray and white matter volume in NF1 patients. Relative to healthy controls, NF1 patients showed widespread reductions in white matter integrity across the entire brain as reflected by decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) and significantly increased absolute diffusion (ADC). When radial and axial diffusion were examined we found pronounced differences in radial diffusion in NF1 patients, indicative of either decreased myelination or increased space between axons. Secondary analyses revealed that FA and radial diffusion effects were of greatest magnitude in the frontal lobe. Such alterations of white matter tracts connecting frontal regions could contribute to the observed cognitive deficits. Furthermore, although the cellular basis of these white matter microstructural alterations remains to be determined, our findings of disproportionately increased radial diffusion against a background of increased white matter volume suggest the novel hypothesis that one potential alteration contributing to increased cortical white matter in NF1 may be looser packing of axons, with or without myelination changes. Further, this indicates that axial and radial diffusivity can uniquely contribute as markers of NF1-associated brain pathology in conjunction with the typically investigated measures.