[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During evolution segments of homeothermic genomes underwent a GC content increase. Our analyses reveal that two exon-intron architectures have evolved from an ancestral state of low GC content exons flanked by short introns with a lower GC content. One group underwent a GC content elevation that abolished the differential exon-intron GC content, with introns remaining short. The other group retained the overall low GC content as well as the differential exon-intron GC content, and is associated with longer introns. We show that differential exon-intron GC content regulates exon inclusion level in this group, in which disease-associated mutations often lead to exon skipping. This group's exons also display higher nucleosome occupancy compared to flanking introns and exons of the other group, thus "marking" them for spliceosomal recognition. Collectively, our results reveal that differential exon-intron GC content is a previously unidentified determinant of exon selection and argue that the two GC content architectures reflect the two mechanisms by which splicing signals are recognized: exon definition and intron definition.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Regulation of splicing in eukaryotes occurs through the coordinated action of multiple splicing factors. Exons and introns contain numerous putative binding sites for splicing regulatory proteins. Regulation of splicing is presumably achieved by the combinatorial output of the binding of splicing factors to the corresponding binding sites. Although putative regulatory sites often overlap, no extensive study has examined whether overlapping regulatory sequences provide yet another dimension to splicing regulation. Here we analyzed experimentally-identified splicing regulatory sequences using a computational method based on the natural distribution of nucleotides and splicing regulatory sequences. We uncovered positive and negative interplay between overlapping regulatory sequences. Examination of these overlapping motifs revealed a unique spatial distribution, especially near splice donor sites of exons with weak splice donor sites. The positively selected overlapping splicing regulatory motifs were highly conserved among different species, implying functionality. Overall, these results suggest that overlap of two splicing regulatory binding sites is an evolutionary conserved widespread mechanism of splicing regulation. Finally, over-abundant motif overlaps were experimentally tested in a reporting minigene revealing that overlaps may facilitate a mode of splicing that did not occur in the presence of only one of the two regulatory sequences that comprise it.
Preview · Article · Jun 2010 · Nucleic Acids Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Transposable elements (TEs) have contributed a wide range of functional sequences to their host genomes. A recent paper in BMC Molecular Biology discusses the creation of new transcripts by transposable element insertion upstream of retrocopies and the involvement of such insertions in tissue-specific post-transcriptional regulation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Author Summary
The human genome is crowded with over one million copies of primate-specific retrotransposed elements, termed Alu. A large fraction of Alu elements are located within intronic sequences. The human transcriptome undergoes extensive RNA editing (A-to-I), to higher levels than any other tested organism. RNA editing requires the formation of a double-stranded RNA structure in order to occur. Over 90% of the editing sites in the human transcriptome are found within Alu sequences. Thus, the high level of RNA editing is indicative of extensive secondary structure formation in mRNA precursors driven by intronic Alu-Alu base pairing. Splicing is a molecular mechanism in which introns are removed from an mRNA precursor and exons are ligated to form a mature mRNA. Here, we show that Alu insertions into introns can affect the splicing of the flanking exons. We experimentally demonstrate that two Alu elements that were inserted into the same intron in opposite orientation undergo base-pairing, and consequently shift the splicing pattern of the downstream exon from constitutive inclusion in all mature mRNA molecules to alternative skipping. This emphasizes the impact of Alu elements on the primate-specific transcriptome evolution, as such events can generate new isoforms that might acquire novel functions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in developed countries and represents a significant risk factor for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. Splicing mutations constitute at least 14% of disease-causing mutations, thus implicating polymorphisms that affect splicing as likely candidates for disease susceptibility. A recent study suggested that genes associated with obesity were significantly enriched for rare nucleotide variants. Here, we examined these variants and revealed that they are located near splice junctions and tend to affect exonic splicing regulatory sequences. We also show that the majority of the exons that harbor these SNPs are constitutively spliced, yet they exhibit weak splice sites, typical to alternatively spliced exons, and are hence suboptimal for recognition by the splicing machinery and prone to become alternatively spliced. Using ex vivo assays, we tested a few representative variants and show that they indeed affect splicing by causing a shift from a constitutive to an alternative pattern, suggesting a possible link between extreme body mass index and abnormal splicing patterns.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Computational and experimental evidence has revealed that cancerous cells express transcript variants that are abnormally spliced, suggesting that mRNAs are more frequently alternatively spliced in cancerous tissues than in normal ones. We show that cancerous tissues exhibit lower levels of alternative splicing than do normal tissues. Moreover, we found that the distribution of types of alternative splicing differs between cancerous and normal tissues. We further show evidence suggesting that the lower levels of alternative splicing in cancerous tissues might be a result of disruption of splicing regulatory proteins.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Alternative splicing is a well-characterized mechanism by which multiple transcripts are generated from a single mRNA precursor. By allowing production of several protein isoforms from one pre-mRNA, alternative splicing contributes to proteomic diversity. But what do we know about the origin of this mechanism? Do the same evolutionary forces apply to alternatively and constitutively splice exons? Do similar forces act on all types of alternative splicing? Are the products generated by alternative splicing functional? Why is "improper" recognition of exons and introns allowed by the splicing machinery? In this review, we summarize the current knowledge regarding these issues from an evolutionary perspective.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Splicing is a molecular mechanism, by which introns are removed from an mRNA precursor and exons are ligated to form a mature mRNA. Mutations that cause defects in the splicing mechanism are known to be responsible for many diseases, including cystic fibrosis and familial dysautonomia. If mutations that cause defects in splicing are responsible for such severe deleterious phenotypic differences, it is possible that mutations in splicing are also responsible for mildly deleterious phenotypic differences. Although deleterious mutations are rapidly eliminated from the population by purifying selection, the selection against mild deleterious effects is not as strong. Since mildly deleterious mutations have a chance of surviving natural selection, we might be mistakenly referring to these mutations as neutral variation between individuals. Splicing has also been shown to be seriously affected in cancer. Examination of cancerous tissues revealed alterations in expression levels of genes involved in mRNA processing and also a slight reduction in the level of exon skipping--the most common form of alternative splicing in humans. This implies that defects in genes involved in the regulation of splicing in cancerous tissues affect the delicate regulation of the inclusion level of alternatively skipped exons, shifting their mode of splicing back to constitutive. It may be that splicing silencers play a more prominent role in alternative splicing regulation than previously anticipated.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Author Summary
Alternative splicing is believed to play a major role in the creation of transcriptomic diversification leading to higher order of organismal complexity, especially in mammals. As much as 80% of human genes generate more than one type of mRNA by alternative splicing. Thus, alternative splicing can bridge the low number of protein coding genes (∼24,500) and the total number of proteins generated in the human proteome (∼90,000). The correlation between the higher order of phenotypic diversity and alternative splicing was recently demonstrated and thus the origin of alternative splicing is of great interest. There are currently two models regarding the origin of alternatively spliced exons—exonization of intronic sequences and exon shuffling. According to these two mechanisms, a protein-coding gene was first established and only then a new alternative exon appeared within it or was added to the gene. Our current study provides evidences for a new mechanism indicating that during evolution constitutively spliced exons became alternatively spliced. Large-scale bioinformatic analyses reveal the magnitude of this process and experimental validation systems provide insights into its mechanisms.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Exonic splicing regulatory sequences (ESRs) are cis-acting factor binding sites that regulate constitutive and alternative splicing. A computational method based on the conservation level of wobble positions and the overabundance of sequence motifs between 46,103 human and mouse orthologous exons was developed, identifying 285 putative ESRs. Alternatively spliced exons that are either short in length or contain weak splice sites show the highest conservation level of those ESRs, especially toward the edges of exons. ESRs that are abundant in those subgroups show a different distribution between constitutively and alternatively spliced exons. Representatives of these ESRs and two SR protein binding sites were shown, experimentally, to display variable regulatory effects on alternative splicing, depending on their relative locations in the exon. This finding signifies the delicate positional effect of ESRs on alternative splicing regulation.