Wai-Kin Chan

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, United States

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Publications (5)39.83 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The T-cell receptor (TCR) and immunoglobulin (Ig) genes are unique among vertebrate genes in that they undergo programmed rearrangement, a process that allows them to generate an enormous array of receptors with different antigen specificities. While crucial for immune function, this rearrangement mechanism is highly error prone, often generating frameshift or nonsense mutations that render the rearranged TCR and Ig genes defective. Such frame-disrupting mutations have been reported to increase the level of TCRbeta and Igmicro pre-mRNA, suggesting the hypothesis that RNA processing is blocked when frame disruption is sensed. Using a chimeric gene that contains TCRbeta sequences conferring this upregulatory response, we provide evidence that pre-mRNA upregulation is neither frame- nor translation-dependent; instead, several lines of evidence suggested that it is the result of disrupted cis elements necessary for efficient RNA splicing. In particular, we identify the rearranging VDJ(beta) exon as being uniquely densely packed with exonic-splicing enhancers (ESEs), rendering this exon hypersensitive to mutational disruption. As the chimeric gene that we developed for these studies generates unusually stable nuclear pre-mRNAs that accumulate when challenged with ESE mutations, we suggest it can be used as a sensitive in vivo system to identify and characterize ESEs.
    Nucleic Acids Research 12/2009; 38(5):1559-74. · 8.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) is an RNA decay pathway that downregulates aberrant mRNAs and a subset of normal mRNAs. The regulation of NMD is poorly understood. Here we identify a regulatory mechanism acting on two related UPF (up-frameshift) factors crucial for NMD: UPF3A and UPF3B. This regulatory mechanism, which reduces the level of UPF3A in response to the presence of UPF3B, is relieved in individuals harboring UPF3B mutations, leading to strongly increased steady-state levels of UPF3A. UPF3A compensates for the loss of UPF3B by regulating several NMD target transcripts, but it can also impair NMD, as it competes with the stronger NMD activator UPF3B for binding to the essential NMD factor UPF2. This deleterious effect of UPF3A protein is prevented by its destabilization using a conserved UPF3B-dependent mechanism. Together, our results suggest that UPF3A levels are tightly regulated by a post-transcriptional switch to maintain appropriate levels of NMD substrates in cells containing different levels of UPF3B.
    Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 07/2009; 16(7):747-53. · 11.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: T-cell receptor-beta (TCRbeta) genes naturally acquire premature termination codons (PTCs) as a result of programmed gene rearrangements. PTC-bearing TCRbeta transcripts are dramatically down-regulated to protect T-cells from the deleterious effects of the truncated proteins that would otherwise be produced. Here we provide evidence that two responses collaborate to elicit this dramatic down-regulation. One is rapid mRNA decay triggered by the nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) RNA surveillance pathway. We demonstrate that this occurs in highly purified nuclei lacking detectable levels of three different cytoplasmic markers, but containing an outer nuclear membrane marker, suggesting that decay occurs either in the nucleoplasm or at the outer nuclear membrane. The second response is a dramatic partitioning shift in the nuclear fraction-to-cytoplasmic fraction mRNA ratio that results in few TCRbeta transcripts escaping to the cytoplasmic fraction of cells. Analysis of TCRbeta mRNA kinetics after either transcriptional repression or induction suggested that this nonsense codon-induced partitioning shift (NIPS) response is not the result of cytoplasmic NMD but instead reflects retention of PTC(+) TCRbeta mRNA in the nuclear fraction of cells. We identified TCRbeta sequences crucial for NIPS but found that NIPS is not exclusively a property of TCRbeta transcripts, and we identified non-TCRbeta sequences that elicit NIPS. RNA interference experiments indicated that NIPS depends on the NMD factors UPF1 and eIF4AIII but not the NMD factor UPF3B. We propose that NIPS collaborates with NMD to retain and degrade a subset of PTC(+) transcripts at the outer nuclear membrane and/or within the nucleoplasm.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 01/2009; 284(7):4062-72. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Nonsense mutations create premature termination codons (PTCs), leading to the generation of truncated proteins, some of which have deleterious gain-of-function or dominant-negative activity. Protecting cells from such aberrant proteins is non-sense-mediated decay (NMD), an RNA surveillance pathway that degrades transcripts harboring PTCs. A second response to nonsense mutations is the up-regulation of alternatively spliced transcripts that skip the PTC. This nonsense-associated altered splicing (NAS) response has the potential to rescue protein function, but the mechanism by which it is triggered has been controversial. Some studies suggest that, like NMD, NAS is triggered as a result of nonsense mutations disrupting reading frame, whereas other studies suggest that NAS is triggered when nonsense mutations disrupt exonic splicing enhancers (ESEs). Using T-cell receptor-beta (TCRbeta), which naturally acquires PTCs at high frequency, we provide evidence that both mechanisms act on a single type of mRNA. Mutations that disrupt consensus ESE sites up-regulated an alternatively spliced TCRbeta transcript that skipped the mutations independently of reading frame disruption and the NMD factor UPF1. In contrast, reading frame-disrupting mutations that did not disrupt consensus ESE sites elicited UPF1-dependent up-regulation of the alternatively spliced TCRbeta transcript. Restoration of reading frame prevented this up-regulation. Our results suggest that the response of an mRNA to a nonsense mutation depends on its context.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 11/2007; 282(41):29738-47. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The T-cell receptor (TCR) locus undergoes programmed rearrangements that frequently generate premature termination codons (PTCs). The PTC-bearing transcripts derived from such nonproductively rearranged genes are dramatically downregulated by the nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) pathway. Here, we show that depletion of the NMD factor UPF3b does not impair TCRbeta NMD, thereby distinguishing it from classical NMD. Depletion of the related factor UPF3a, by itself or in combination with UPF3b, also has no effect on TCRbeta NMD. Mapping experiments revealed the identity of TCRbeta sequences that elicit a switch to UPF3b dependence. This regulation is not a peculiarity of TCRbeta, as we identified many wild-type genes, including one essential for NMD, that transcribe NMD-targeted mRNAs whose downregulation is little or not affected by UPF3a and UPF3b depletion. We propose that we have uncovered an alternative branch of the NMD pathway that not only degrades aberrant mRNAs but also regulates normal mRNAs, including one that participates in a negative feedback loop controlling the magnitude of NMD.
    The EMBO Journal 05/2007; 26(7):1820-30. · 9.82 Impact Factor