Eukaryotes have two types of spliceosomes, comprised of either major (U1, U2, U4, U5, U6) or minor (U11, U12, U4atac, U6atac; <1%) snRNPs. The high conservation of minor introns, typically one amidst many major introns in several hundred genes, despite their poor splicing, has been a long-standing enigma. Here, we discovered that the low abundance minor spliceosome's catalytic snRNP, U6atac, is strikingly unstable (t½<2 hr). We show that U6atac level depends on both RNA polymerases II and III and can be rapidly increased by cell stress-activated kinase p38MAPK, which stabilizes it, enhancing mRNA expression of hundreds of minor intron-containing genes that are otherwise suppressed by limiting U6atac. Furthermore, p38MAPK-dependent U6atac modulation can control minor intron-containing tumor suppressor PTEN expression and cytokine production. We propose that minor introns are embedded molecular switches regulated by U6atac abundance, providing a novel post-transcriptional gene expression mechanism and a rationale for the minor spliceosome's evolutionary conservation. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00780.001.
RNA-seq is a powerful tool for the study of alternative splicing and other forms of alternative isoform expression. Understanding the regulation of these processes requires sensitive and specific detection of differential isoform abundance in comparisons between conditions, cell types, or tissues. We present DEXSeq, a statistical method to test for differential exon usage in RNA-seq data. DEXSeq uses generalized linear models and offers reliable control of false discoveries by taking biological variation into account. DEXSeq detects with high sensitivity genes, and in many cases exons, that are subject to differential exon usage. We demonstrate the versatility of DEXSeq by applying it to several data sets. The method facilitates the study of regulation and function of alternative exon usage on a genome-wide scale. An implementation of DEXSeq is available as an R/Bioconductor package.
The presence of introns in gene-coding regions is one of the most mysterious evolutionary inventions in eukaryotic organisms. It has been proposed that, although sequences involved in intron recognition and splicing are mainly located in introns, exonic sequences also contribute to intron splicing. The smallest constitutively spliced exon known so far has 6 nucleotides, and the smallest alternatively spliced exon has 3 nucleotides. Here we report that the Anaphase Promoting Complex subunit 11 (APC11) gene in Arabidopsis thaliana carries a constitutive single-nucleotide exon. In vivo transcription and translation assays performed using APC11-Green Fluorescence Protein (GFP) fusion constructs revealed that intron splicing surrounding the single-nucleotide exon is effective in both Arabidopsis and rice. This discovery warrants attention to genome annotations in the future.
Short-read high-throughput RNA sequencing, though powerful, is limited in its ability to directly measure exon connectivity in mRNAs that contain multiple alternative exons located farther apart than the maximum read length. Here, we use the Oxford Nanopore MinION sequencer to identify 7,899 ‘full-length’ isoforms expressed from four Drosophila genes, Dscam1, MRP, Mhc, and Rdl. These results demonstrate that nanopore sequencing can be used to deconvolute individual isoforms and that it has the potential to be a powerful method for comprehensive transcriptome characterization.
The CD19 antigen, expressed on most B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (B-ALL), can be targeted with chimeric antigen receptor-armed T cells (CART-19), but relapses with epitope loss occur in 10% to 20% of pediatric responders. We detected hemizygous deletions spanning the CD19 locus and de novo frameshift and missense mutations in exon 2 of CD19 in some relapse samples. However, we also discovered alternatively spliced CD19 mRNA species, including one lacking exon 2. Pull-down/siRNA experiments identified SRSF3 as a splicing factor involved in exon 2 retention, and its levels were lower in relapsed B-ALL. Using genome editing, we demonstrated that exon 2 skipping bypasses exon 2 mutations in B-ALL cells and allows expression of the N-terminally truncated CD19 variant, which fails to trigger killing by CART-19 but partly rescues defects associated with CD19 loss. Thus, this mechanism of resistance is based on a combination of deleterious mutations and ensuing selection for alternatively spliced RNA isoforms.
Alternative splicing of pre-messenger RNA (mRNA) is a critical stage of gene regulation in response to environmental stimuli. Here we show that DAZAP1, an RNA-binding protein involved in mammalian development and spermatogenesis, promotes inclusion of weak exons through specific recognition of diverse cis-elements. The carboxy-terminal proline-rich domain of DAZAP1 interacts with and neutralizes general splicing inhibitors, and is sufficient to activate splicing when recruited to pre-mRNA. This domain is phosphorylated by the MEK/Erk (extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase) pathway and this modification is essential for the splicing regulatory activity and the nuclear/cytoplasmic translocation of DAZAP1. Using mRNA-seq, we identify endogenous splicing events regulated by DAZAP1, many of which are involved in maintaining cell growth. Knockdown or over-expression of DAZAP1 causes a cell proliferation defect. Taken together, these studies reveal a molecular mechanism that integrates splicing control into MEK/Erk-regulated cell proliferation.
RNA splicing is an important target for basic research of disease mechanisms and for drug discovery. Here, we report a new method for analysis of the in vitro RNA splicing process that produces fluorescence using a reduction-triggered fluorescence (RETF) probe. The fluorescence signal is produced only when the two probes bind side-by-side with a specific RNA target. Precursor messenger RNA and mature messenger RNA originating from the chicken δ-crystallin (CDC) gene were successfully discriminated in solution using an RETF probe with the assistance of helper oligonucleotide strands. Also, we successfully applied RETF probes to the detection of emerging mature mRNA in an in vitro splicing process.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in DMD which disrupt the reading frame. Therapeutic strategies that restore DMD’s reading frame, such as exon skipping and CRISPR/Cas9, need to be tested in the context of the human DMD sequence in vivo. We have developed a novel dystrophic mouse model by using CRISPR/Cas9 to delete exon 45 in the human DMD gene in hDMD mice, which places DMD out-of-frame. We have utilized this model to demonstrate that our clinically-relevant CRISPR/Cas9 platform, which targets deletion of human DMD exons 45-55, can be directly applied in vivo to restore dystrophin.
Cool ambient temperatures are major cues determining flowering time in spring. The mechanisms promoting or delaying flowering in response to ambient temperature changes are only beginning to be understood. In Arabidopsis thaliana, FLOWERING LOCUS M (FLM) regulates flowering in the ambient temperature range and FLM is transcribed and alternatively spliced in a temperature-dependent manner. We identify polymorphic promoter and intronic sequences required for FLM expression and splicing. In transgenic experiments covering 69% of the available sequence variation in two distinct sites, we show that variation in the abundance of the FLM-ß splice form strictly correlate (R2 = 0.94) with flowering time over an extended vegetative period. The FLM polymorphisms lead to changes in FLM expression (PRO2+) but may also affect FLM intron 1 splicing (INT6+). This information could serve to buffer the anticipated negative effects on agricultural systems and flowering that may occur during climate change.
Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is caused by the expression of mutant RNAs containing expanded CUG repeats that sequester muscleblind-like (MBNL) proteins, leading to alternative splicing changes. Cardiac alterations, characterized by conduction delays and arrhythmia, are the second most common cause of death in DM. Using RNA sequencing, here we identify novel splicing alterations in DM heart samples, including a switch from adult exon 6B towards fetal exon 6A in the cardiac sodium channel, SCN5A. We find that MBNL1 regulates alternative splicing of SCN5A mRNA and that the splicing variant of SCN5A produced in DM presents a reduced excitability compared with the control adult isoform. Importantly, reproducing splicing alteration of Scn5a in mice is sufficient to promote heart arrhythmia and cardiac-conduction delay, two predominant features of myotonic dystrophy. In conclusion, misregulation of the alternative splicing of SCN5A may contribute to a subset of the cardiac dysfunctions observed in myotonic dystrophy.