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1.  CDK9 inhibitor FIT-039 prevents replication of multiple DNA viruses 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(8):3479-3488.
A wide range of antiviral drugs is currently available; however, drug-resistant viruses have begun to emerge and represent a potential public health risk. Here, we explored the use of compounds that inhibit or interfere with the action of essential host factors to prevent virus replication. In particular, we focused on the cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) inhibitor, FIT-039, which suppressed replication of a broad spectrum of DNA viruses through inhibition of mRNA transcription. Specifically, FIT-039 inhibited replication of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), HSV-2, human adenovirus, and human cytomegalovirus in cultured cells, and topical application of FIT-039 ointment suppressed skin legion formation in a murine HSV-1 infection model. FIT-039 did not affect cell cycle progression or cellular proliferation in host cells. Compared with the general CDK inhibitor flavopiridol, transcriptome analyses of FIT-039–treated cells revealed that FIT-039 specifically inhibited CDK9. Given at concentrations above the inhibitory concentration, FIT-039 did not have a cytotoxic effect on mammalian cells. Importantly, administration of FIT-039 ameliorated the severity of skin lesion formation in mice infected with an acyclovir-resistant HSV-1, without noticeable adverse effects. Together, these data indicate that FIT-039 has potential as an antiviral agent for clinical therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4109542  PMID: 25003190
2.  Alleviation of behavioral hypersensitivity in mouse models of inflammatory pain with two structurally different casein kinase 1 (CK1) inhibitors 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:17.
The phylogenetically highly conserved CK1 protein kinases consisting of at least seven isoforms form a distinct family within the eukaryotic protein kinases. CK1 family members play crucial roles in a wide range of signaling activities. However, the functional role of CK1 in somatosensory pain signaling has not yet been fully understood. The aim of this study was to clarify the role of CK1 in the regulation of inflammatory pain in mouse carrageenan and complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) models.
We have used two structurally different CK1 inhibitors, TG003 and IC261. TG003, which was originally identified as a cdc2-like kinase inhibitor, had potent inhibitory effects on CK1 isoforms in vitro and in cultured cells. Intrathecal injection of either TG003 (1-100 pmol) or IC261 (0.1-1 nmol) dose-dependently decreased mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia induced by carrageenan or CFA. Bath-application of either TG003 (1 μM) or IC261 (1 μM) had only marginal effects on spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) recorded in the substantia gelatinosa neurons of control mice. However, both compounds decreased the frequency of sEPSCs in both inflammatory pain models.
These results suggest that CK1 plays an important pathophysiological role in spinal inflammatory pain transmission, and that inhibition of the CK1 activity may provide a novel strategy for the treatment of inflammatory pain.
PMCID: PMC4008364  PMID: 24612480
Allodynia; Carrageenan; Complete Freund’s adjuvant; CFA; Hyperalgesia; Whole-cell patch-clamp
3.  Topical Antiangiogenic SRPK1 Inhibitors Reduce Choroidal Neovascularization in Rodent Models of Exudative AMD 
Exudative AMD (wet AMD) is treated by monthly injection into the eye of anti-VEGF proteins. VEGF is alternatively spliced to produce numerous isoforms that differ in angiogenic activity. Serine-rich protein kinase-1 (SRPK1) has been identified as a regulator of pro-angiogenic VEGF splicing by phosphorylating serine-rich splicing factor-1 (SRSF1), which binds to VEGF pre-mRNA. We tested the hypothesis that topical (eye drop) SRPK1-selective inhibitors could be generated that reduce pro-angiogenic isoforms, and prevent choroidal neovascularization in vivo.
Novel inhibitors were tested for SRPK inhibition in vitro, pro-angiogenic VEGF production in RPE cells by PCR and ELISA, and for inhibition of choroidal neovascularisation in mice and rats.
A novel disubstituted furan inhibitor was selective for the SRPK family of kinases and reduced expression of pro-angiogenic but not antiangiogenic VEGF isoforms. This inhibitor and previously identified SRPK inhibitors significantly reduced choroidal neovascularisation in vivo. Topical administration of SRPK inhibitors dose-dependently blocked CNV with an EC50 of 9 μM.
These results indicate that novel SRPK1 selective inhibitors could be a potentially novel topical (eye drop) therapeutic for wet AMD.
Exudative AMD results from excess angiogenic VEGF production. Switching VEGF splicing to the antiangiogenic isoforms by inhibiting serine-rich protein kinase-1 (SRPK1) can be achieved by topical application of novel SRPK1 inhibitors. This could result in novel treatments that do not require injection in wet AMD.
PMCID: PMC3771558  PMID: 23887803
VEGF; splicing; AMD
4.  Synergistic cooperation of PDI family members in peroxiredoxin 4-driven oxidative protein folding 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2456.
The mammalian endoplasmic reticulum (ER) harbors disulfide bond-generating enzymes, including Ero1α and peroxiredoxin 4 (Prx4), and nearly 20 members of the protein disulfide isomerase family (PDIs), which together constitute a suitable environment for oxidative protein folding. Here, we clarified the Prx4 preferential recognition of two PDI family proteins, P5 and ERp46, and the mode of interaction between Prx4 and P5 thioredoxin domain. Detailed analyses of oxidative folding catalyzed by the reconstituted Prx4–PDIs pathways demonstrated that, while P5 and ERp46 are dedicated to rapid, but promiscuous, disulfide introduction, PDI is an efficient proofreader of non-native disulfides. Remarkably, the Prx4-dependent formation of native disulfide bonds was accelerated when PDI was combined with ERp46 or P5, suggesting that PDIs work synergistically to increase the rate and fidelity of oxidative protein folding. Thus, the mammalian ER seems to contain highly systematized oxidative networks for the efficient production of large quantities of secretory proteins.
PMCID: PMC3744794  PMID: 23949117
5.  Inhibition of DYRK1A destabilizes EGFR and reduces EGFR-dependent glioblastoma growth 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(6):2475-2487.
Glioblastomas (GBMs) are very aggressive tumors that are resistant to conventional chemo- and radiotherapy. New molecular therapeutic strategies are required to effectively eliminate the subpopulation of GBM tumor–initiating cells that are responsible for relapse. Since EGFR is altered in 50% of GBMs, it represents one of the most promising targets; however, EGFR kinase inhibitors have produced poor results in clinical assays, with no clear explanation for the observed resistance. We uncovered a fundamental role for the dual-specificity tyrosine phosphorylation–regulated kinase, DYRK1A, in regulating EGFR in GBMs. We found that DYRK1A was highly expressed in these tumors and that its expression was correlated with that of EGFR. Moreover, DYRK1A inhibition promoted EGFR degradation in primary GBM cell lines and neural progenitor cells, sharply reducing the self-renewal capacity of normal and tumorigenic cells. Most importantly, our data suggest that a subset of GBMs depends on high surface EGFR levels, as DYRK1A inhibition compromised their survival and produced a profound decrease in tumor burden. We propose that the recovery of EGFR stability is a key oncogenic event in a large proportion of gliomas and that pharmacological inhibition of DYRK1A could represent a promising therapeutic intervention for EGFR-dependent GBMs.
PMCID: PMC3668845  PMID: 23635774
6.  CELF Family RNA–Binding Protein UNC-75 Regulates Two Sets of Mutually Exclusive Exons of the unc-32 Gene in Neuron-Specific Manners in Caenorhabditis elegans 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003337.
An enormous number of alternative pre–mRNA splicing patterns in multicellular organisms are coordinately defined by a limited number of regulatory proteins and cis elements. Mutually exclusive alternative splicing should be strictly regulated and is a challenging model for elucidating regulation mechanisms. Here we provide models of the regulation of two sets of mutually exclusive exons, 4a–4c and 7a–7b, of the Caenorhabditis elegans uncoordinated (unc)-32 gene, encoding the a subunit of V0 complex of vacuolar-type H+-ATPases. We visualize selection patterns of exon 4 and exon 7 in vivo by utilizing a trio and a pair of symmetric fluorescence splicing reporter minigenes, respectively, to demonstrate that they are regulated in tissue-specific manners. Genetic analyses reveal that RBFOX family RNA–binding proteins ASD-1 and FOX-1 and a UGCAUG stretch in intron 7b are involved in the neuron-specific selection of exon 7a. Through further forward genetic screening, we identify UNC-75, a neuron-specific CELF family RNA–binding protein of unknown function, as an essential regulator for the exon 7a selection. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays specify a short fragment in intron 7a as the recognition site for UNC-75 and demonstrate that UNC-75 specifically binds via its three RNA recognition motifs to the element including a UUGUUGUGUUGU stretch. The UUGUUGUGUUGU stretch in the reporter minigenes is actually required for the selection of exon 7a in the nervous system. We compare the amounts of partially spliced RNAs in the wild-type and unc-75 mutant backgrounds and raise a model for the mutually exclusive selection of unc-32 exon 7 by the RBFOX family and UNC-75. The neuron-specific selection of unc-32 exon 4b is also regulated by UNC-75 and the unc-75 mutation suppresses the Unc phenotype of the exon-4b-specific allele of unc-32 mutants. Taken together, UNC-75 is the neuron-specific splicing factor and regulates both sets of the mutually exclusive exons of the unc-32 gene.
Author Summary
Tissue-specific and mutually exclusive alternative pre–mRNA splicing is a challenging model for elucidating regulation mechanisms. We previously demonstrated that evolutionarily conserved RBFOX family RNA–binding proteins ASD-1 and FOX-1 and a muscle-specific RNA–binding protein SUP-12 cooperatively direct muscle-specific selection of exon 5B of the C. elegans egl-15 gene. Here we demonstrate that two sets of mutually exclusive exons, 4a–4c and 7a–7b, of the unc-32 gene are regulated in tissue-specific manners and that ASD-1 and FOX-1, expressed in a variety of tissues, can regulate the neuron-specific selection of unc-32 exon 7a in combination with the neuron-specific CELF family RNA–binding protein UNC-75. We determine the cis-elements for the RBFOX family and UNC-75, which separately reside in intron 7b and intron 7a, respectively. By analyzing the partially spliced RNA species, we propose the orders of intron removal and the sites of action for the RBFOX family and UNC-75 in the mutually exclusive selection of exon 7a and exon 7b. We also demonstrate that UNC-75 regulates the neuron-specific selection of exon 4b and propose the models of the mutually exclusive selection of exons 4a, 4b, and 4c. These studies thus provide novel modes of regulation for tissue-specific and mutually exclusive alternative splicing in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3585155  PMID: 23468662
7.  WT1 mutants reveal SRPK1 to be a downstream angiogenesis target by altering VEGF splicing 
Cancer cell  2011;20(6):768-780.
Angiogenesis is regulated by the balance of pro-angiogenic VEGF165 and anti-angiogenic VEGF165b splice isoforms. Mutations in WT1, the Wilms’ tumour suppressor gene, suppress VEGF165b and cause abnormal gonadogenesis, renal failure and Wilms’ tumours. In WT1 mutant cells, reduced VEGF165b was due to lack of WT1 mediated transcriptional repression of the splicing factor kinase SRPK1. WT1 bound to the SRPK1 promoter, and repressed expression through a specific WT1 binding-site. In WT1 mutant cells SRPK1-mediated hyperphosphorylation of the oncogenic RNA binding protein SRSF1 regulated splicing of VEGF, and rendered WT1 mutant cells pro-angiogenic. Altered VEGF splicing was reversed by wildtype WT1, knockdown of SRSF1 or SRPK1 and inhibition of SRPK1, which prevented in vitro and in vivo angiogenesis and associated tumour growth.
PMCID: PMC3574979  PMID: 22172722
8.  Position-dependent and neuron-specific splicing regulation by the CELF family RNA-binding protein UNC-75 in Caenorhabditis elegans 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(7):4015-4025.
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.
PMCID: PMC3627589  PMID: 23416545
9.  hDbr1 is a nucleocytoplasmic shuttling protein with a protein phosphatase-like motif essential for debranching activity 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:1090.
In higher eukaryotes most genes contain multiple introns. Introns are excised from pre-mRNAs by splicing and eventually degraded in the nucleus. It is likely that rapid intron turnover in the nucleus is important in higher eukaryotes, but this pathway is poorly understood. In order to gain insights into this pathway, we analyzed the human lariat RNA debranching enzyme1 (hDbr1) protein that catalyzes debranching of lariat-intron RNAs. Transfection experiments demonstrate that hDbr1 is localized in a nucleoplasm of HeLa cells through a bipartite type nuclear localization signal near carboxyl-terminus. The conserved GNHE motif, originally identified in protein phosphatase protein family, is critical for hDbr1 to dissolve lariat structure in vitro. Furthermore, heterokaryon experiments show that hDbr1 is a nucleocytoplasmic shuttling protein, suggesting novel role(s) of hDbr1 in the cytoplasm.
PMCID: PMC3549538  PMID: 23346348
10.  Muscle-Specific Splicing Factors ASD-2 and SUP-12 Cooperatively Switch Alternative Pre-mRNA Processing Patterns of the ADF/Cofilin Gene in Caenorhabditis elegans 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(10):e1002991.
Pre–mRNAs are often processed in complex patterns in tissue-specific manners to produce a variety of protein isoforms from single genes. However, mechanisms orchestrating the processing of the entire transcript are not well understood. Muscle-specific alternative pre–mRNA processing of the unc-60 gene in Caenorhabditis elegans, encoding two tissue-specific isoforms of ADF/cofilin with distinct biochemical properties in regulating actin organization, provides an excellent in vivo model of complex and tissue-specific pre–mRNA processing; it consists of a single first exon and two separate series of downstream exons. Here we visualize the complex muscle-specific processing pattern of the unc-60 pre–mRNA with asymmetric fluorescence reporter minigenes. By disrupting juxtaposed CUAAC repeats and UGUGUG stretch in intron 1A, we demonstrate that these elements are required for retaining intron 1A, as well as for switching the processing patterns of the entire pre–mRNA from non-muscle-type to muscle-type. Mutations in genes encoding muscle-specific RNA–binding proteins ASD-2 and SUP-12 turned the colour of the unc-60 reporter worms. ASD-2 and SUP-12 proteins specifically and cooperatively bind to CUAAC repeats and UGUGUG stretch in intron 1A, respectively, to form a ternary complex in vitro. Immunohistochemical staining and RT–PCR analyses demonstrate that ASD-2 and SUP-12 are also required for switching the processing patterns of the endogenous unc-60 pre-mRNA from UNC-60A to UNC-60B in muscles. Furthermore, systematic analyses of partially spliced RNAs reveal the actual orders of intron removal for distinct mRNA isoforms. Taken together, our results demonstrate that muscle-specific splicing factors ASD-2 and SUP-12 cooperatively promote muscle-specific processing of the unc-60 gene, and provide insight into the mechanisms of complex pre-mRNA processing; combinatorial regulation of a single splice site by two tissue-specific splicing regulators determines the binary fate of the entire transcript.
Author Summary
Muscle is a specialized organ with specialized contractile apparatuses. A number of genes encoding contractile apparatus-related proteins undergo muscle-specific pre–mRNA processing. However, the molecular mechanisms and consequences of muscle-specific alternative pre–mRNA processing remain largely unknown. In this study, we reveal regulation mechanisms of pre–mRNA processing of the unc-60 gene locus, encoding two tissue-specific isoforms of ADF/cofilin in C. elegans. The unc-60A and unc-60B genes share only the first exon, and UNC-60B protein is specifically expressed in muscle. We visualize the tissue-specific processing patterns of the unc-60 pre–mRNA with green and red fluorescent proteins in living worms. We provide genetic, biochemical, and immunohistochemical evidence that muscle-specific RNA–binding proteins ASD-2 and SUP-12 cooperatively bind to specific motifs in intron 1A to retain intron 1A, which leads to skipping of exon 2A through 5A and splicing between exon 1 and 2B. Consistently, disruption of the splicing factors leads to expression of UNC-60A in muscle and suppresses paralysis of an unc-60B-specific mutant. Our study raises a model of step-by-step execution of complex co-transcriptional pre–mRNA processing and provides insight into the fate decision of the entire transcript.
PMCID: PMC3469465  PMID: 23071450
11.  Identification of Novel N-(Morpholine-4-Carbonyloxy) Amidine Compounds as Potent Inhibitors against Hepatitis C Virus Replication 
To identify novel compounds that possess antiviral activity against hepatitis C virus (HCV), we screened a library of small molecules with various amounts of structural diversity using an HCV replicon-expressing cell line and performed additional validations using the HCV-JFH1 infectious-virus cell culture. Of 4,004 chemical compounds, we identified 4 novel compounds that suppressed HCV replication with 50% effective concentrations of ranging from 0.36 to 4.81 μM. N′-(Morpholine-4-carbonyloxy)-2-(naphthalen-1-yl) acetimidamide (MCNA) was the most potent and also produced a small synergistic effect when used in combination with alpha interferon. Structure-activity relationship (SAR) analyses revealed 4 derivative compounds with antiviral activity. Further SAR analyses revealed that the N-(morpholine-4-carbonyloxy) amidine moiety was a key structural element for antiviral activity. Treatment of cells with MCNA activated nuclear factor κB and downstream gene expression. In conclusion, N-(morpholine-4-carbonyloxy) amidine and other related morpholine compounds specifically suppressed HCV replication and may have potential as novel chemotherapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC3294916  PMID: 22203602
12.  The distribution of phosphorylated SR proteins and alternative splicing are regulated by RANBP2 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(6):1115-1128.
SR splicing factors are distributed in the speckled pattern in the nucleus. Alternative pre-mRNA splicing is regulated through nuclear distribution of phosphorylated SR splicing factors, which is specifically regulated by the RANBP2 system in mammalian cell lines, as well as in mouse tissues.
The mammalian cell nucleus is functionally compartmentalized into various substructures. Nuclear speckles, also known as interchromatin granule clusters, are enriched with SR splicing factors and are implicated in gene expression. Here we report that nuclear speckle formation is developmentally regulated; in certain cases phosphorylated SR proteins are absent from the nucleus and are instead localized at granular structures in the cytoplasm. To investigate how the nuclear architecture is formed, we performed a phenotypic screen of HeLa cells treated with a series of small interfering RNAs. Depletion of Ran-binding protein 2 induced cytoplasmic intermediates of nuclear speckles in G1 phase. Detailed analyses of these structures suggested that a late step in the sequential nuclear entry of mitotic interchromatin granule components was disrupted and that phosphorylated SR proteins were sequestered in an SR protein kinase–dependent manner. As a result, the cells had an imbalanced subcellular distribution of phosphorylated and hypophosphorylated SR proteins, which affected alternative splicing patterns. This study demonstrates that the speckled distribution of phosphorylated pre-mRNA processing factors is regulated by the nucleocytoplasmic transport system in mammalian cells and that it is important for alternative splicing.
PMCID: PMC3302738  PMID: 22262462
13.  Stress-responsive maturation of Clk1/4 pre-mRNAs promotes phosphorylation of SR splicing factor 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;195(1):27-40.
A nuclear pool of partially spliced Clk1/4 pre-mRNAs matures in response to stress and induces SR protein phosphorylation and activation.
It has been assumed that premessenger ribonucleic acids (RNAs; pre-mRNAs) are spliced cotranscriptionally in the process of gene expression. However, in this paper, we report that splicing of Clk1/4 mRNAs is suspended in tissues and cultured cells and that intermediate forms retaining specific introns are abundantly pooled in the nucleus. Administration of the Cdc2-like kinase–specific inhibitor TG003 increased the level of Clk1/4 mature mRNAs by promoting splicing of the intron-retaining RNAs. Under stress conditions, splicing of general pre-mRNAs was inhibited by dephosphorylation of SR splicing factors, but exposure to stresses, such as heat shock and osmotic stress, promoted the maturation of Clk1/4 mRNAs. Clk1/4 proteins translated after heat shock catalyzed rephosphorylation of SR proteins, especially SRSF4 and SRSF10. These findings suggest that Clk1/4 expression induced by stress-responsive splicing serves to maintain the phosphorylation state of SR proteins.
PMCID: PMC3187705  PMID: 21949414
14.  Specific Y14 domains mediate its nucleo-cytoplasmic shuttling and association with spliced mRNA 
Scientific Reports  2011;1:92.
Pre-mRNA splicing deposits multi-protein complexes, termed exon junction complexes (EJCs), on mRNAs near exon-exon junctions. The core of EJC consists of four proteins, eIF4AIII, MLN51, Y14 and Magoh. Y14 is a nuclear protein that can shuttle between the nucleus and the cytoplasm, and binds specifically to Magoh. Here we delineate a Y14 nuclear localization signal that also confers its nuclear export, which we name YNS. We further identified a 12-amino-acid peptide near Y14's carboxyl terminus that is required for its association with spliced mRNAs, as well as for Magoh binding. Furthermore, the Y14 mutants, which are deficient in binding to Magoh, could still be localized to the nucleus, suggesting the existence of both the nuclear import pathway and function for Y14 unaccompanied by Magoh.
PMCID: PMC3216578  PMID: 22355610
15.  The Kinase Inhibitor SFV785 Dislocates Dengue Virus Envelope Protein from the Replication Complex and Blocks Virus Assembly 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23246.
Dengue virus (DENV) is the etiologic agent for dengue fever, for which there is no approved vaccine or specific anti-viral drug. As a remedy for this, we explored the use of compounds that interfere with the action of required host factors and describe here the characterization of a kinase inhibitor (SFV785), which has selective effects on NTRK1 and MAPKAPK5 kinase activity, and anti-viral activity on Hepatitis C, DENV and yellow fever viruses. SFV785 inhibited DENV propagation without inhibiting DENV RNA synthesis or translation. The compound did not cause any changes in the cellular distribution of non-structural 3, a protein critical for DENV RNA synthesis, but altered the distribution of the structural envelope protein from a reticulate network to enlarged discrete vesicles, which altered the co-localization with the DENV replication complex. Ultrastructural electron microscopy analyses of DENV-infected SFV785-treated cells showed the presence of viral particles that were distinctly different from viable enveloped virions within enlarged ER cisternae. These viral particles were devoid of the dense nucleocapsid. The secretion of the viral particles was not inhibited by SFV785, however a reduction in the amount of secreted infectious virions, DENV RNA and capsid were observed. Collectively, these observations suggest that SFV785 inhibited the recruitment and assembly of the nucleocapsid in specific ER compartments during the DENV assembly process and hence the production of infectious DENV. SFV785 and derivative compounds could be useful biochemical probes to explore the DENV lifecycle and could also represent a new class of anti-virals.
PMCID: PMC3157368  PMID: 21858043
16.  Inhibition of Hepatitis C Virus Replication by a Specific Inhibitor of Serine-Arginine-Rich Protein Kinase ▿  
Splicing of messenger RNAs is regulated by site-specific binding of members of the serine-arginine-rich (SR) protein family, and SR protein kinases (SRPK) 1 and 2 regulate overall activity of the SR proteins by phosphorylation of their RS domains. We have reported that specifically designed SRPK inhibitors suppressed effectively several DNA and RNA viruses in vitro and in vivo. Here, we show that an SRPK inhibitor, SRPIN340, suppressed in a dose-dependent fashion expression of a hepatitis C virus (HCV) subgenomic replicon and replication of the HCV-JFH1 clone in vitro. The inhibitory effects were not associated with antiproliferative or nonspecific cytotoxic effects on the host cells. Overexpression of SRPK1 or SRPK2 resulted in augmentation of HCV replication, while small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of the SRPKs suppressed HCV replication significantly. Immunocytochemistry showed that SRPKs and the HCV core and NS5A proteins colocalized to some extent in the perinuclear area. Our results demonstrate that SRPKs are host factors essential for HCV replication and that functional inhibitors of these kinases may constitute a new class of antiviral agents against HCV infection.
PMCID: PMC2916360  PMID: 20498328
17.  Positive Charges of Translocating Polypeptide Chain Retrieve an Upstream Marginal Hydrophobic Segment from the Endoplasmic Reticulum Lumen to the Translocon 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(12):2045-2056.
Positive charges of nascent chain facilitate membrane spanning of a marginally hydrophobic segment, even when separated by 70 residues from the segment. The segment is exposed to the lumen and then slides back into the membrane. They not only fix the hydrophobic segment in the membrane, but exert a much more dynamic action than previously realized.
Positively charged amino acid residues are well recognized topology determinants of membrane proteins. They contribute to the stop-translocation of a polypeptide translocating through the translocon and to determine the orientation of signal sequences penetrating the membrane. Here we analyzed the function of these positively charged residues during stop-translocation in vitro. Surprisingly, the positive charges facilitated membrane spanning of a marginally hydrophobic segment, even when separated from the hydrophobic segment by 70 residues. In this case, the hydrophobic segment was exposed to the lumen, and then the downstream positive charges triggered the segment to slide back into the membrane. The marginally hydrophobic segment spanned the membrane, but maintained access to the water environment. The positive charges not only fix the hydrophobic segment in the membrane at its flanking position, but also have a much more dynamic action than previously realized.
PMCID: PMC2883948  PMID: 20427573
18.  Splicing Reporter Mice Revealed the Evolutionally Conserved Switching Mechanism of Tissue-Specific Alternative Exon Selection 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e10946.
Since alternative splicing of pre-mRNAs is essential for generating tissue-specific diversity in proteome, elucidating its regulatory mechanism is indispensable to understand developmental process or tissue-specific functions. We have been focusing on tissue-specific regulation of mutually exclusive selection of alternative exons because this implies the typical molecular mechanism of alternative splicing regulation and also can be good examples to elicit general rule of “splice code”. So far, mutually exclusive splicing regulation has been explained by the outcome from the balance of multiple regulators that enhance or repress either of alternative exons discretely. However, this “balance” model is open to questions of how to ensure the selection of only one appropriate exon out of several candidates and how to switch them. To answer these questions, we generated an original bichromatic fluorescent splicing reporter system for mammals using fibroblast growth factor-receptor 2 (FGFR2) gene as model. By using this splicing reporter, we demonstrated that FGFR2 gene is regulated by the “switch-like” mechanism, in which key regulators modify the ordered splice-site recognition of two mutually exclusive exons, eventually ensure single exon selection and their distinct switching. Also this finding elucidated the evolutionally conserved “splice code,” in which combination of tissue-specific and broadly expressed RNA binding proteins regulate alternative splicing of specific gene in a tissue-specific manner. These findings provide the significant cue to understand how a number of spliced genes are regulated in various tissue-specific manners by a limited number of regulators, eventually to understand developmental process or tissue-specific functions.
PMCID: PMC2880598  PMID: 20532173
19.  Regulation of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) Splicing from Pro-angiogenic to Anti-angiogenic Isoforms 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;285(8):5532-5540.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is produced either as a pro-angiogenic or anti-angiogenic protein depending upon splice site choice in the terminal, eighth exon. Proximal splice site selection (PSS) in exon 8 generates pro-angiogenic isoforms such as VEGF165, and distal splice site selection (DSS) results in anti-angiogenic isoforms such as VEGF165b. Cellular decisions on splice site selection depend upon the activity of RNA-binding splice factors, such as ASF/SF2, which have previously been shown to regulate VEGF splice site choice. To determine the mechanism by which the pro-angiogenic splice site choice is mediated, we investigated the effect of inhibition of ASF/SF2 phosphorylation by SR protein kinases (SRPK1/2) on splice site choice in epithelial cells and in in vivo angiogenesis models. Epithelial cells treated with insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) increased PSS and produced more VEGF165 and less VEGF165b. This down-regulation of DSS and increased PSS was blocked by protein kinase C inhibition and SRPK1/2 inhibition. IGF-1 treatment resulted in nuclear localization of ASF/SF2, which was blocked by SPRK1/2 inhibition. Pull-down assay and RNA immunoprecipitation using VEGF mRNA sequences identified an 11-nucleotide sequence required for ASF/SF2 binding. Injection of an SRPK1/2 inhibitor reduced angiogenesis in a mouse model of retinal neovascularization, suggesting that regulation of alternative splicing could be a potential therapeutic strategy in angiogenic pathologies.
PMCID: PMC2820781  PMID: 19906640
Growth Factors; RNA/Splicing; ASF/SF2; Angiogenesis; SRPK1; VEGF
20.  Herpesvirus protein ICP27 switches PML isoform by altering mRNA splicing 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(19):6515-6527.
Viruses use alternative splicing to produce a broad series of proteins from small genomes by utilizing the cellular splicing machinery. Since viruses use cellular RNA binding proteins for viral RNA processing, it is presumable that the splicing of cellular pre-mRNAs is affected by viral infection. Here, we showed that herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) modifies the expression of promyelocytic leukemia (PML) isoforms by altering pre-mRNA splicing. Using a newly developed virus-sensitive splicing reporter, we identified the viral protein ICP27 as an alternative splicing regulator of PML isoforms. ICP27 was found to bind preferentially to PML pre-mRNA and directly inhibit the removal of PML intron 7a in vitro. Moreover, we demonstrated that ICP27 functions as a splicing silencer at the 3′ splice site of the PML intron 7a. The switching of PML isoform from PML-II to PML-V as induced by ICP27 affected HSV-2 replication, suggesting that the viral protein modulates the splicing code of cellular pre-mRNA(s) governing virus propagation.
PMCID: PMC2770646  PMID: 19729513
21.  Differential Expression of Glutamate Receptors in Avian Neural Pathways for Learned Vocalization 
Learned vocalization, the substrate for human language, is a rare trait. It is found in three distantly related groups of birds—parrots, hummingbirds, and songbirds. These three groups contain cerebral vocal nuclei for learned vocalization not found in their more closely related vocal nonlearning relatives. Here, we cloned 21 receptor subunits/subtypes of all four glutamate receptor families (AMPA, kainate, NMDA, and metabotropic) and examined their expression in vocal nuclei of songbirds. We also examined expression of a subset of these receptors in vocal nuclei of hummingbirds and parrots, as well as in the brains of dove species as examples of close vocal nonlearning relatives. Among the 21 subunits/subtypes, 19 showed higher and/or lower prominent differential expression in songbird vocal nuclei relative to the surrounding brain subdivisions in which the vocal nuclei are located. This included relatively lower levels of all four AMPA subunits in lMAN, strikingly higher levels of the kainite subunit GluR5 in the robust nucleus of the arcopallium (RA), higher and lower levels respectively of the NMDA subunits NR2A and NR2B in most vocal nuclei and lower levels of the metabotropic group I subtypes (mGluR1 and -5) in most vocal nuclei and the group II subtype (mGluR2), showing a unique expression pattern of very low levels in RA and very high levels in HVC. The splice variants of AMPA subunits showed further differential expression in vocal nuclei. Some of the receptor subunits/subtypes also showed differential expression in hummingbird and parrot vocal nuclei. The magnitude of differential expression in vocal nuclei of all three vocal learners was unique compared with the smaller magnitude of differences found for nonvocal areas of vocal learners and vocal nonlearners. Our results suggest that evolution of vocal learning was accompanied by differential expression of a conserved gene family for synaptic transmission and plasticity in vocal nuclei. They also suggest that neural activity and signal transduction in vocal nuclei of vocal learners will be different relative to the surrounding brain areas.
PMCID: PMC2517240  PMID: 15236466
song system; song nuclei; neurotransmitter
22.  The Fox-1 Family and SUP-12 Coordinately Regulate Tissue-Specific Alternative Splicing In Vivo▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(24):8612-8621.
Many pre-mRNAs are alternatively spliced in a tissue-specific manner in multicellular organisms. The Fox-1 family of RNA-binding proteins regulate alternative splicing by either activating or repressing exon inclusion through specific binding to UGCAUG stretches. However, the precise cellular contexts that determine the action of the Fox-1 family in vivo remain to be elucidated. We have recently demonstrated that ASD-1 and FOX-1, members of the Fox-1 family in Caenorhabditis elegans, regulate tissue-specific alternative splicing of the fibroblast growth factor receptor gene, egl-15, which eventually determines the ligand specificity of the receptor in vivo. Here we report that another RNA-binding protein, SUP-12, coregulates the egl-15 alternative splicing. By screening for mutants defective in the muscle-specific expression of our alternative splicing reporter, we identified the muscle-specific RNA-binding protein SUP-12. We identified juxtaposed conserved stretches as the cis elements responsible for the regulation. The Fox-1 family and the SUP-12 proteins form a stable complex with egl-15 RNA, depending on the cis elements. Furthermore, the asd-1; sup-12 double mutant is defective in sex myoblast migration, phenocopying the isoform-specific egl-15(5A) mutant. These results establish an in vivo model that coordination of the two families of RNA-binding proteins regulates tissue-specific alternative splicing of a specific target gene.
PMCID: PMC2169414  PMID: 17923701
23.  A novel histone exchange factor, protein phosphatase 2Cγ, mediates the exchange and dephosphorylation of H2A–H2B 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2006;175(3):389-400.
In eukaryotic nuclei, DNA is wrapped around a protein octamer composed of the core histones H2A, H2B, H3, and H4, forming nucleosomes as the fundamental units of chromatin. The modification and deposition of specific histone variants play key roles in chromatin function. In this study, we established an in vitro system based on permeabilized cells that allows the assembly and exchange of histones in situ. H2A and H2B, each tagged with green fluorescent protein (GFP), are incorporated into euchromatin by exchange independently of DNA replication, and H3.1-GFP is assembled into replicated chromatin, as found in living cells. By purifying the cellular factors that assist in the incorporation of H2A–H2B, we identified protein phosphatase (PP) 2C γ subtype (PP2Cγ/PPM1G) as a histone chaperone that binds to and dephosphorylates H2A–H2B. The disruption of PP2Cγ in chicken DT40 cells increased the sensitivity to caffeine, a reagent that disturbs DNA replication and damage checkpoints, suggesting the involvement of PP2Cγ-mediated histone dephosphorylation and exchange in damage response or checkpoint recovery in higher eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC2064517  PMID: 17074886
24.  Dual Roles of RNA Helicase A in CREB-Dependent Transcription 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(14):4460-4469.
RNA helicase A (RHA) is a member of an ATPase/DNA and RNA helicase family and is a homologue of Drosophila maleless protein (MLE), which regulates X-linked gene expression. RHA is also a component of holo-RNA polymerase II (Pol II) complexes and recruits Pol II to the CREB binding protein (CBP). The ATPase and/or helicase activity of RHA is required for CREB-dependent transcription. To further understand the role of RHA on gene expression, we have identified a 50-amino-acid transactivation domain that interacts with Pol II and termed it the minimal transactivation domain (MTAD). The protein sequence of this region contains six hydrophobic residues and is unique to RHA homologues and well conserved. A mutant with this region deleted from full-length RHA decreased transcriptional activity in CREB-dependent transcription. In addition, mutational analyses revealed that several tryptophan residues in MTAD are important for the interaction with Pol II and transactivation. These mutants had ATP binding and ATPase activities comparable to those of wild-type RHA. A mutant lacking ATP binding activity was still able to interact with Pol II. In CREB-dependent transcription, the transcriptional activity of each of these mutants was less than that of wild-type RHA. The activity of the double mutant lacking both functions was significantly lower than that of each mutant alone, and the double mutant had a dominant negative effect. These results suggest that RHA could independently regulate CREB-dependent transcription either through recruitment of Pol II or by ATP-dependent mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC87106  PMID: 11416126
25.  Chemical treatment enhances skipping of a mutated exon in the dystrophin gene 
Nature Communications  2011;2:308-.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal muscle wasting disease caused by a loss of the dystrophin protein. Control of dystrophin mRNA splicing to convert severe DMD to a milder phenotype is attracting much attention. Here we report a dystrophinopathy patient who has a point mutation in exon 31 of the dystrophin gene. Although the mutation generates a stop codon, a small amount of internally deleted, but functional, dystrophin protein is produced in the patient cells. An analysis of the mRNA reveals that the mutation promotes exon skipping and restores the open reading frame of dystrophin. Presumably, the mutation disrupts an exonic splicing enhancer and creates an exonic splicing silencer. Therefore, we searched for small chemicals that enhance exon skipping, and found that TG003 promotes the skipping of exon 31 in the endogenous dystrophin gene in a dose-dependent manner and increases the production of the dystrophin protein in the patient's cells.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by a loss of the dystrophin gene, and control of dystrophin mRNA splicing could aid treatment of the disease. Nishida et al. show that a small molecule promotes skipping of exon 31 and increases production of a functional dystrophin protein in a patient.
PMCID: PMC3113229  PMID: 21556062

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