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A feedback loop regulates splicing of the spinal muscular atrophy-modifying gene, SMN2.

Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, The Chicago Medical School, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, IL 60064, USA.
Human Molecular Genetics (Impact Factor: 7.69). 09/2010; 19(24):4906-17. DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddq425
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurological disorder characterized by motor neuron degeneration and progressive muscle paralysis. The disease is caused by a reduction in survival of motor neuron (SMN) protein resulting from homozygous deletion of the SMN1 gene. SMN protein is also encoded by SMN2. However, splicing of SMN2 exon 7 is defective, and consequently, the majority of the transcripts produce a truncated, unstable protein. SMN protein itself has a role in splicing. The protein is required for the biogenesis of spliceosomal snRNPs, which are essential components of the splicing reaction. We now show that SMN protein abundance affects the splicing of SMN2 exon 7, revealing a feedback loop inSMN expression. The reduced SMN protein concentration observed in SMA samples and in cells depleted of SMN correlates with a decrease in cellular snRNA levels and a decrease in SMN2 exon 7 splicing. Furthermore, altering the relative abundance or activity of individual snRNPs has distinct effects on exon 7 splicing, demonstrating that core spliceosomal snRNPs influence SMN2 alternative splicing. Our results identify a feedback loop in SMN expression by which low SMN protein levels exacerbate SMN exon 7 skipping, leading to a further reduction in SMN protein. These results imply that a modest increase in SMN protein abundance may cause a disproportionately large increase in SMN expression, a finding that is important for assessing the therapeutic potential of SMA treatments and understanding disease pathogenesis.

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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the human survival motor neuron 1 (SMN) gene are the primary cause of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a devastating neuromuscular disorder. SMN protein has a well-characterized role in the biogenesis of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs), core components of the spliceosome. Additional tissue-specific and global functions have been ascribed to SMN; however, their relevance to SMA pathology is poorly understood and controversial. Using Drosophila as a model system, we created an allelic series of twelve Smn missense mutations, originally identified in human SMA patients. We show that animals expressing these SMA-causing mutations display a broad range of phenotypic severities, similar to the human disease. Furthermore, specific interactions with other proteins known to be important for SMN's role in RNP assembly are conserved. Intragenic complementation analyses revealed that the three most severe mutations, all of which map to the YG box self-oligomerization domain of SMN, display a stronger phenotype than the null allele and behave in a dominant fashion. In support of this finding, the severe YG box mutants are defective in self-interaction assays, yet maintain their ability to heterodimerize with wild-type SMN. When expressed at high levels, wild-type SMN is able to suppress the activity of the mutant protein. These results suggest that certain SMN mutants can sequester the wild-type protein into inactive complexes. Molecular modeling of the SMN YG box dimer provides a structural basis for this dominant phenotype. These data demonstrate that important structural and functional features of the SMN YG box are conserved between vertebrates and invertebrates, emphasizing the importance of self-interaction to the proper functioning of SMN.
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is one of the most common inherited causes of pediatric mortality. SMA is caused by deletions or mutations in the survival of motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene, which results in SMN protein deficiency. Humans have a centromeric copy of the survival of motor neuron gene, SMN2, which is nearly identical to SMN1. However, SMN2 cannot compensate for the loss of SMN1 because SMN2 has a single-nucleotide difference in exon 7, which negatively affects splicing of the exon. As a result, most mRNA produced from SMN2 lacks exon 7. SMN2 mRNA lacking exon 7 encodes a truncated protein with reduced functionality. Improving SMN2 exon 7 inclusion is a goal of many SMA therapeutic strategies. The identification of regulators of exon 7 inclusion may provide additional therapeutic targets or improve the design of existing strategies. Although a number of regulators of exon 7 inclusion have been identified, the function of most splicing proteins in exon 7 inclusion is unknown. Here, we test the role of SR proteins and hnRNP proteins in SMN2 exon 7 inclusion. Knockdown and overexpression studies reveal that SRSF1, SRSF2, SRSF3, SRSF4, SRSF5, SRSF6, SRSF7, SRSF11, hnRNPA1/B1 and hnRNP U can inhibit exon 7 inclusion. Depletion of two of the most potent inhibitors of exon 7 inclusion, SRSF2 or SRSF3, in cell lines derived from SMA patients, increased SMN2 exon 7 inclusion and SMN protein. Our results identify novel regulators of SMN2 exon 7 inclusion, revealing potential targets for SMA therapeutics.
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