The landscape of human mutually exclusive splicing.
ABSTRACT: Mutually exclusive splicing of exons is a mechanism of functional gene and protein diversification with pivotal roles in organismal development and diseases such as Timothy syndrome, cardiomyopathy and cancer in humans. In order to obtain a first genomewide estimate of the extent and biological role of mutually exclusive splicing in humans, we predicted and subsequently validated mutually exclusive exons (MXEs) using 515 publically available RNA-Seq datasets. Here, we provide evidence for the expression of over 855 MXEs, 42% of which represent novel exons, increasing the annotated human mutually exclusive exome more than fivefold. The data provide strong evidence for the existence of large and multi-cluster MXEs in higher vertebrates and offer new insights into MXE evolution. More than 82% of the MXE clusters are conserved in mammals, and five clusters have homologous clusters in Drosophila Finally, MXEs are significantly enriched in pathogenic mutations and their spatio-temporal expression might predict human disease pathology.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Alternative splicing is an important process in higher eukaryotes that allows obtaining several transcripts from one gene. A specific case of alternative splicing is mutually exclusive splicing, in which exactly one exon out of a cluster of neighbouring exons is spliced into the mature transcript. Recently, a new algorithm for the prediction of these exons has been developed based on the preconditions that the exons of the cluster have similar lengths, sequence homology, and conserved splice sites, and that they are translated in the same reading frame. DESCRIPTION: In this contribution we introduce Kassiopeia, a database and web application for the generation, storage, and presentation of genome-wide analyses of mutually exclusive exomes. Currently, Kassiopeia provides access to the mutually exclusive exomes of twelve Drosophila species, the thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana, the flatworm Caenorhabditis elegans, and human. Mutually exclusive spliced exons (MXEs) were predicted based on gene reconstructions from Scipio. Based on the standard prediction values, with which 83.5% of the annotated MXEs of Drosophila melanogaster were reconstructed, the exomes contain surprisingly more MXEs than previously supposed and identified. The user can search Kassiopeia using BLAST or browse the genes of each species optionally adjusting the parameters used for the prediction to reveal more divergent or only very similar exon candidates. CONCLUSIONS: We developed a pipeline to predict MXEs in the genomes of several model organisms and a web interface, Kassiopeia, for their visualization. For each gene Kassiopeia provides a comprehensive gene structure scheme, the sequences and predicted secondary structures of the MXEs, and, if available, further evidence for MXE candidates from cDNA/EST data, predictions of MXEs in homologous genes of closely related species, and RNA secondary structure predictions. Kassiopeia can be accessed at http://www.motorprotein.de/kassiopeia.
Project description:Mutually exclusive splicing is an important means of increasing the protein repertoire, by which the Down's syndrome cell adhesion molecule (Dscam) gene potentially generates 38,016 different isoforms in Drosophila melanogaster. However, the regulatory mechanisms remain obscure due to the complexity of the Dscam exon cluster. Here, we reveal a molecular model for the regulation of the mutually exclusive splicing of the serpent pre-mRNA based on competition between upstream and downstream RNA pairings. Such dual RNA pairings confer fine tuning of the inclusion of alternative exons. Moreover, we demonstrate that the splicing outcome of alternative exons is mediated in relative pairing strength-correlated mode. Combined comparative genomics analysis and experimental evidence revealed similar bidirectional structural architectures in exon clusters 4 and 9 of the Dscam gene. Our findings provide a novel mechanistic framework for the regulation of mutually exclusive splicing and may offer potentially applicable insights into long-range RNA-RNA interactions in gene regulatory networks.
Project description:The Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (Dscam) gene has essential roles in neural wiring and pathogen recognition in Drosophila melanogaster. Dscam encodes 38,016 distinct isoforms via extensive alternative splicing. The 95 alternative exons in Dscam are organized into clusters that are spliced in a mutually exclusive manner. The exon 6 cluster contains 48 variable exons and uses a complex system of competing RNA structures to ensure that only one variable exon is included. Here we show that the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein hrp36 acts specifically within, and throughout, the exon 6 cluster to prevent the inclusion of multiple exons. Moreover, hrp36 prevents serine/arginine-rich proteins from promoting the ectopic inclusion of multiple exon 6 variants. Thus, the fidelity of mutually exclusive splicing in the exon 6 cluster is governed by an intricate combination of alternative RNA structures and a globally acting splicing repressor.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Alternative splicing of pre-mature RNA is an important process eukaryotes utilize to increase their repertoire of different protein products. Several types of different alternative splice forms exist including exon skipping, differential splicing of exons at their 3'- or 5'-end, intron retention, and mutually exclusive splicing. The latter term is used for clusters of internal exons that are spliced in a mutually exclusive manner. RESULTS: We have implemented an extension to the WebScipio software to search for mutually exclusive exons. Here, the search is based on the precondition that mutually exclusive exons encode regions of the same structural part of the protein product. This precondition provides restrictions to the search for candidate exons concerning their length, splice site conservation and reading frame preservation, and overall homology. Mutually exclusive exons that are not homologous and not of about the same length will not be found. Using the new algorithm, mutually exclusive exons in several example genes, a dynein heavy chain, a muscle myosin heavy chain, and Dscam were correctly identified. In addition, the algorithm was applied to the whole Drosophila melanogaster X chromosome and the results were compared to the Flybase annotation and an ab initio prediction. Clusters of mutually exclusive exons might be subsequent to each other and might encode dozens of exons. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first implementation of an automatic search for mutually exclusive exons in eukaryotes. Exons are predicted and reconstructed in the same run providing the complete gene structure for the protein query of interest. WebScipio offers high quality gene structure figures with the clusters of mutually exclusive exons colour-coded, and several analysis tools for further manual inspection. The genome scale analysis of all genes of the Drosophila melanogaster X chromosome showed that WebScipio is able to find all but two of the 28 annotated mutually exclusive spliced exons and predicts 39 new candidate exons. Thus, WebScipio should be able to identify mutually exclusive spliced exons in any query sequence from any species with a very high probability. WebScipio is freely available to academics at http://www.webscipio.org.
Project description:Alternative splicing performs a central role in expanding genomic coding capacity and proteomic diversity. However, programming of splicing patterns in engineered biological systems remains underused. Synthetic approaches thus far have predominantly focused on controlling expression of a single protein through alternative splicing. Here, we describe a modular and extensible platform for regulating four programmable exons that undergo a mutually exclusive alternative splicing event to generate multiple functionally-distinct proteins. We present an intron framework that enforces the mutual exclusivity of two internal exons and demonstrate a graded series of consensus sequence elements of varying strengths that set the ratio of two mutually exclusive isoforms. We apply this framework to program the DNA-binding domains of modular transcription factors to differentially control downstream gene activation. This splicing platform advances an approach for generating diverse isoforms and can ultimately be applied to program modular proteins and increase coding capacity of synthetic biological systems.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Genes of advanced organisms undergo alternative splicing, which can be mutually exclusive, in the sense that only one exon is included in the mature mRNA out of a cluster of alternative choices, often arranged in a tandem array. In many cases, however, the details of the underlying biologic mechanisms are unknown. RESULTS:We describe 'variable window binding'--a mechanism used for mutually exclusive alternative splicing by which a segment ('window') of a conserved nucleotide 'anchor' sequence upstream of the exon 6 cluster in the pre-mRNA of the fruitfly Dscam gene binds to one of the introns, thereby activating selection of the exon directly downstream from the binding site. This mechanism is supported by the fact that the anchor sequence can be inferred solely from a comparison of the intron sequences using a genetic algorithm. Because the window location varies for each exon choice, regulation can be achieved by obstructing part of that sequence. We also describe a related mechanism based on competing pre-mRNA stem-loop structures that could explain the mutually exclusive choice of exon 17 of the Dscam gene. CONCLUSION:On the basis of comparative sequence analysis, we propose efficient biologic mechanisms of alternative splicing of the Drosophila Dscam gene that rely on the inherent structure of the pre-mRNA. Related mechanisms employing 'locus control regions' could be involved on other occasions of mutually exclusive choices of exons or genes.
Project description:Drosophila Dscam encodes 38,016 distinct axon guidance receptors through the mutually exclusive alternative splicing of 95 variable exons. Importantly, known mechanisms that ensure the mutually exclusive splicing of pairs of exons cannot explain this phenomenon in Dscam. I have identified two classes of conserved elements in the Dscam exon 6 cluster, which contains 48 alternative exons--the docking site, located in the intron downstream of constitutive exon 5, and the selector sequences, which are located upstream of each exon 6 variant. Strikingly, each selector sequence is complementary to a portion of the docking site, and this pairing juxtaposes one, and only one, alternative exon to the upstream constitutive exon. The mutually exclusive nature of the docking site:selector sequence interactions suggests that the formation of these competing RNA structures is a central component of the mechanism guaranteeing that only one exon 6 variant is included in each Dscam mRNA.
Project description:CaV1.2 calcium channels play roles in diverse cellular processes such as gene regulation, muscle contraction, and membrane excitation and are diversified in their activity through extensive alternative splicing of the CaV1.2 mRNA. The mutually exclusive exons 8a and 8 encode alternate forms of transmembrane segment 6 (IS6) in channel domain 1. The human genetic disorder Timothy syndrome is caused by mutations in either of these two CaV1.2 exons, resulting in disrupted Ca(2+) homeostasis and severe pleiotropic disease phenotypes. The tissue-specific pattern of exon 8/8a splicing leads to differences in symptoms between patients with exon 8 or 8a mutations. Elucidating the mechanisms controlling the exon 8/8a splicing choice will be important in understanding the spectrum of defects associated with the disease. We found that the polypyrimidine tract-binding protein (PTB) mediates a switch from exon 8 to 8a splicing. PTB and its neuronal homolog, nPTB, are widely studied splicing regulators controlling large sets of alternative exons. During neuronal development, PTB expression is down-regulated with a concurrent increase in nPTB expression. Exon 8a is largely repressed in embryonic mouse brain but is progressively induced during neuronal differentiation as PTB is depleted. This splicing repression is mediated by the direct binding of PTB to sequence elements upstream of exon 8a. The nPTB protein is a weaker repressor of exon 8a, resulting in a shift in exon choice when nPTB replaces PTB in cells. These results provide mechanistic understanding of how these two exons, important for human disease, are controlled.
Project description:Exon or cassette duplication is an important means of expanding protein and functional diversity through mutually exclusive splicing. However, the mechanistic basis of this process in non-arthropod species remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that MRP1 genes underwent tandem exon duplication in Nematoda, Platyhelminthes, Annelida, Mollusca, Arthropoda, Echinodermata, and early-diverging Chordata but not in late-diverging vertebrates. Interestingly, these events were of independent origin in different phyla, suggesting convergent evolution of alternative splicing. Furthermore, we showed that multiple sets of clade-conserved RNA pairings evolved to guide species-specific mutually exclusive splicing in Arthropoda. Importantly, we also identified a similar structural code in MRP exon clusters of the annelid, Capitella teleta, and chordate, Branchiostoma belcheri, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved competing pairing-guided mechanism in bilaterians. Taken together, these data reveal the molecular determinants and RNA pairing-guided evolution of species-specific mutually exclusive splicing spanning more than 600 million years of bilaterian evolution. These findings have a significant impact on our understanding of the evolution of and mechanism underpinning isoform diversity and complex gene structure.
Project description:Alternative splicing of pre-mRNAs greatly contributes to the spatiotemporal diversity of gene expression in metazoans. However, the molecular basis of developmental regulation and the precise sequence of alternative pre-mRNA processing in vivo are poorly understood. In the present study, we focus on the developmental switching of the mutually exclusive alternative splicing of the let-2 gene of Caenorhabditis elegans from the exon 9 form in embryos to the exon 10 form in adults. By visualizing the usage of the let-2 mutually exclusive exons through differential expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) and red fluorescent protein (RFP), we isolated several switching-defective mutants and identified the alternative splicing defective-2 (asd-2) gene, encoding a novel member of the evolutionarily conserved STAR (signal transduction activators of RNA) family of RNA-binding proteins. Comparison of the amounts of partially spliced let-2 RNAs in synchronized wild-type and asd-2 mutant worms suggested that either of the introns downstream from the let-2 mutually exclusive exons is removed prior to the removal of the upstream ones, and that asd-2 promotes biased excision of intron 10 in the late larval stages. We propose that the developmental switching between alternative sequences of intron removal determines the ratio between the mature let-2 mRNA isoforms.