The survival of motor neurons protein determines the capacity for snRNP assembly: biochemical deficiency in spinal muscular atrophy.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6148, USA.
Molecular and Cellular Biology (Impact Factor: 5.04). 08/2005; 25(13):5543-51. DOI: 10.1128/MCB.25.13.5543-5551.2005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Reduction of the survival of motor neurons (SMN) protein levels causes the motor neuron degenerative disease spinal muscular atrophy, the severity of which correlates with the extent of reduction in SMN. SMN, together with Gemins 2 to 7, forms a complex that functions in the assembly of small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particles (snRNPs). Complete depletion of the SMN complex from cell extracts abolishes snRNP assembly, the formation of heptameric Sm cores on snRNAs. However, what effect, if any, reduction of SMN protein levels, as occurs in spinal muscular atrophy patients, has on the capacity of cells to produce snRNPs is not known. To address this, we developed a sensitive and quantitative assay for snRNP assembly, the formation of high-salt- and heparin-resistant stable Sm cores, that is strictly dependent on the SMN complex. We show that the extent of Sm core assembly is directly proportional to the amount of SMN protein in cell extracts. Consistent with this, pulse-labeling experiments demonstrate a significant reduction in the rate of snRNP biogenesis in low-SMN cells. Furthermore, extracts of cells from spinal muscular atrophy patients have a lower capacity for snRNP assembly that corresponds directly to the reduced amount of SMN. Thus, SMN determines the capacity for snRNP biogenesis, and our findings provide evidence for a measurable deficiency in a biochemical activity in cells from patients with spinal muscular atrophy.

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    ABSTRACT: Mutations of the survival motor neuron gene SMN1 cause the inherited disease spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The ubiquitous SMN protein facilitates the biogenesis of spliceosomal small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). The protein is detected in the cytoplasm, nucleoplasm and enriched with snRNPs in nuclear Cajal bodies. It is structurally divided into at least an amino-terminal region rich in basic amino acid residues, a central Tudor domain, a self-association tyrosine-glycine-box and an exon7-encoded C-terminus. To examine the domains required for the intranuclear localization of SMN, we have used fluorescently tagged protein mutants transiently overexpressed in mammalian cells. The basic amino acid residues direct nucleolar localization of SMN mutants. The Tudor domain promotes localization of proteins in the nucleus and it cooperates with the basic amino acid residues and the tyrosine-glycine-box for protein localization in Cajal bodies. Moreover, the most frequent disease-linked mutant SMNDeltaex7 reduces accumulation of snRNPs in Cajal bodies, suggesting that the C-terminus of SMN participates in targeting to Cajal bodies. A reduced number of Cajal bodies in patient fibroblasts associates with the absence of snRNPs in Cajal bodies, revealing that intranuclear snRNA organization is modified in disease. These results indicate that direct and indirect mechanisms regulate localization of SMN in Cajal bodies.
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