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1.  The proto-oncogene PKCι regulates the alternative splicing of Bcl-x pre-mRNA 
Molecular Cancer Research  2012;10(5):660-669.
Two splice variants derived from the BCL-x gene via alternative 5′ splice site selection (5′SS) are pro-apoptotic Bcl-x(s) and anti-apoptotic Bcl-x(L). Previously, our laboratory demonstrated that apoptotic signaling pathways regulated the alternative 5′SS selection via protein phosphatase-1 and de novo ceramide. In this study, we examined the elusive pro-survival signaling pathways that regulate the 5′SS selection of Bcl-x pre-mRNA in cancer cells. Taking a broad-based approach by utilizing a number of small molecule inhibitors of various mitogenic/survival pathways, we found that only treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines with the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor LY294002 (50 μM) or the pan-PKC inhibitor GÖ6983 (25 μM) decreased the Bcl-x(L)/Bcl-x(s) mRNA ratio. Pan-PKC inhibitors that did not target the atypical PKCs, PKCι and PKCζ, had no effect on the Bcl-x(L)/Bcl-x(s) mRNA ratio. Additional studies demonstrated that downregulation of the proto-oncogene, PKCι, in contrast to PKCζ, also resulted in a decrease in the Bcl-x(L)/Bcl-x(s) mRNA ratio. Furthermore, downregulation of PKCι correlated with a dramatic decrease in the expression of SAP155, an RNA trans-acting factor that regulates the 5′SS selection of Bcl-x pre-mRNA. Inhibition of the PI3K or atypical PKC pathway induced a dramatic loss of SAP155 complex formation at ceramide-responsive RNA cis-element 1. Lastly, forced expression of Bcl-x(L) “rescued” the loss of cell survival induced by PKCι siRNA. In summary, the PI3K/PKCι regulates the alternative splicing of Bcl-x pre-mRNA with implications in the cell survival of NSCLC cells.
PMCID: PMC3356487  PMID: 22522453
Bcl-x; Bcl-x(L); Bcl-x(s); alternative splicing; non-small cell lung cancer; protein kinase C iota; SAP155
2.  The flip-flop HuR: part of the problem or the solution in fighting cancer? 
Chronic inflammation has long been appreciated to play a critical role in tumor development and maintenance. Among the mechanisms involved in coordinating the initiation and resolution of inflammation are those responsible for modifying mRNA stability and/or translation. Several studies have linked the RNA-binding protein HuR, which increases mRNA stability, with malignant transformation. However, in this issue of the JCI, Yiakouvaki et al. compellingly demonstrate in mice that increased HuR activity in myeloid cells has a protective role in the onset of pathologic intestinal inflammation (i.e., colitis) and colitis-associated cancer (CAC). These observations highlight the need to understand the roles of HuR in distinct cell populations in vivo and suggest that enhancing HuR activity may be of clinical benefit in protecting against pathologic inflammation and cancer.
PMCID: PMC3248312  PMID: 22201677
3.  SRSF1 (SRp30a) regulates the alternative splicing of caspase 9 via a novel intronic splicing enhancer affecting the chemotherapeutic sensitivity of non-small cell lung cancer cells 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2011;9(7):889-900.
Increasing evidence points to the functional importance of alternative splice variations in cancer pathophysiology with the alternative pre-mRNA processing of caspase 9 as one example. In this study, we delve into the underlying molecular mechanisms that regulate the alternative splicing of caspase 9. Specifically, the pre-mRNA sequence of caspase 9 was analyzed for RNA cis-elements known to interact with SRSF1, a required enhancer for caspase 9 RNA splicing. This analysis revealed thirteen possible RNA cis-elements for interaction with SRSF1 with mutagenesis of these RNA cis-elements identifying a strong intronic splicing enhancer located in intron 6 (C9-I6/ISE). SRSF1 specifically interacted with this sequence, which was required for SRSF1 to act as a splicing enhancer of the inclusion of the four exon cassette. To further determine the biological importance of this mechanism, we employed RNA oligonucleotides to redirect caspase 9 pre-mRNA splicing in favor of caspase 9b expression, which resulted in an increase in the IC50 of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells to daunorubicin, cisplatinum, and paclitaxel. In contrast, downregulation of caspase 9b induced a decrease in the the IC50 of these chemotherapeutic drugs. Lastly, these studies demonstrated that caspase 9 RNA splicing was a major mechanism for the synergistic effects of combination therapy with daunorubicin and erlotinib. Overall, we have identified a novel intronic splicing enhancer that regulates caspase 9 RNA splicing and specifically interacts with SRSF1. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the alternative splicing of caspase 9 is an important molecular mechanism with therapeutic relevance to NSCLCs.
PMCID: PMC3140550  PMID: 21622622
ceramide; non-small cell lung cancer; RNA trans-factor; tumor repressor; oncogene; ASF/SF2; SRp30a; SRSF1; chemotherapy; erlotinib; daunorubicin; cisplatinum; paclitaxel
4.  Alternative splicing of Caspase 9 is modulated by the PI3K/Akt pathway via phosphorylation of SRp30a 
Cancer research  2010;70(22):9185-9196.
Increasing evidence points to the functional importance of alternative splice variations in cancer pathophysiology. Two splice variants are derived from the CASP9 gene via the inclusion (Casp9a) or exclusion (Casp9b) of a four exon cassette. Here we show that alternative splicing of Casp9 is dysregulated in non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) regardless of their pathological classification. Based on these findings we hypothesized that survival pathways activated by oncogenic mutation regulated this mechanism. In contrast to K-RasV12 expression, EGFR overexpression or mutation dramatically lowered the Casp9a/9b splice isoform ratio. Moreover, Casp9b downregulation blocked the ability of EGFR mutations to induce anchorage-independent growth. Furthermore, Casp9b expression blocked inhibition of clonogenic colony formation by erlotinib. Interrogation of oncogenic signaling pathways showed that inhibition of PI3K or Akt dramatically increased the Casp9a/9b ratio in NSCLC cells. Finally, Akt was found to mediate exclusion of the exon 3,4,5,6 cassette of Casp9 via the phosphorylation state of the RNA splicing factor SRp30a via serines 199, 201, 227 and 234. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that oncogenic factors activating the PI3Kinase/Akt pathway can regulate alternative splicing of Casp9 via a coordinated mechanism involving the phosphorylation of SRp30a.
PMCID: PMC3059118  PMID: 21045158
SRp30a; alternative splicing; erlotinib; Akt
5.  hnRNP L regulates the tumorigenic capacity of lung cancer xenografts in mice via caspase-9 pre-mRNA processing 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(11):3923-3939.
Caspase-9 is involved in the intrinsic apoptotic pathway and suggested to play a role as a tumor suppressor. Little is known about the mechanisms governing caspase-9 expression, but post-transcriptional pre-mRNA processing generates 2 splice variants from the caspase-9 gene, pro-apoptotic caspase-9a and anti-apoptotic caspase-9b. Here we demonstrate that the ratio of caspase-9 splice variants is dysregulated in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumors. Mechanistic analysis revealed that an exonic splicing silencer (ESS) regulated caspase-9 pre-mRNA processing in NSCLC cells. Heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein L (hnRNP L) interacted with this ESS, and downregulation of hnRNP L expression induced an increase in the caspase-9a/9b ratio. Although expression of hnRNP L lowered the caspase-9a/9b ratio in NSCLC cells, expression of hnRNP L produced the opposite effect in non-transformed cells, suggesting a post-translational modification specific for NSCLC cells. Indeed, Ser52 was identified as a critical modification regulating the caspase-9a/9b ratio. Importantly, in a mouse xenograft model, downregulation of hnRNP L in NSCLC cells induced a complete loss of tumorigenic capacity that was due to the changes in caspase-9 pre-mRNA processing. This study therefore identifies a cancer-specific mechanism of hnRNP L phosphorylation and subsequent lowering of the caspase-9a/9b ratio, which is required for the tumorigenic capacity of NSCLC cells.
PMCID: PMC2964989  PMID: 20972334

Results 1-5 (5)