Secreted phosphoprotein 1 (SPP1 or Osteopontin, OPN) is a multifunctional matricellular glycoprotein involved in development and regeneration of skeletal muscle. Previously, we have demonstrated that porcine SPP1 shows breed-related differential mRNA expression during myogenesis. With the aim to identify putative contributing cis-regulatory DNA variation we resequenced the 5' upstream region of the gene in the respective breeds Pietrain and Duroc. We found two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP; [GenBank:M84121]: g.1804C>T and g.3836A>G). We focused our investigation on the SNP g.3836A>G, because in silico analysis and knowledge about the regulation of SPP1 suggested an effect of this SNP on a CCAAT/enhancer binding protein beta (C/EBPβ) responsive transcriptional enhancer.
Using electrophoretic mobility shift assay we demonstrated that, similar to human SPP1, the 3' terminal end of the first intron of porcine SPP1 harbors a C/EBPβ binding site and showed that this binding site is negatively affected by the mutant G allele. Genotyping of 48 fetuses per breed revealed that the G allele segregated exclusively in Duroc fetuses with a frequency of 57 percent. Using real-time quantitative PCR we showed that, consistent with its negative effect on a transcriptional enhancer element, the G allele tends to decrease mRNA abundance of SPP1 in the fetal musculus longissimus dorsi (~1.3 fold; P ≥ 0.1).
Moreover, we showed that the SNP g.3836A>G leads to ubiquitous aberrant splicing of the first intron by generating a de novo and activating a cryptic splice acceptor site. Aberrantly spliced transcripts comprise about half of the SPP1 messages expressed by the G allele. Both aberrant splice variants differ from the native transcript by insertions in the leader sequences which do not change the reading frame of SPP1.
At the 3' terminal end of the first intron of the porcine SPP1 we identified a unique, dually functional SNP g.3836A>G. This SNP affects the function of the SPP1 gene at the DNA level by affecting a C/EBPβ binding site and at the RNA level by activating aberrant splicing of the first intron, and thus represents an interesting DNA-marker to study phenotypic effects of SPP1 DNA-variation.