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Nucleic acids research

αCP binding to a cytosine-rich subset of polypyrimidine tracts drives a novel pathway of cassette exon splicing in the mammalian transcriptome.


PMID 26896798

Abstract

Alternative splicing (AS) is a robust generator of mammalian transcriptome complexity. Splice site specification is controlled by interactions of cis-acting determinants on a transcript with specific RNA binding proteins. These interactions are frequently localized to the intronic U-rich polypyrimidine tracts (PPT) located 5' to the majority of splice acceptor junctions. αCPs (also referred to as polyC-binding proteins (PCBPs) and hnRNPEs) comprise a subset of KH-domain proteins with high affinity and specificity for C-rich polypyrimidine motifs. Here, we demonstrate that αCPs promote the splicing of a defined subset of cassette exons via binding to a C-rich subset of polypyrimidine tracts located 5' to the αCP-enhanced exonic segments. This enhancement of splice acceptor activity is linked to interactions of αCPs with the U2 snRNP complex and may be mediated by cooperative interactions with the canonical polypyrimidine tract binding protein, U2AF65. Analysis of αCP-targeted exons predicts a substantial impact on fundamental cell functions. These findings lead us to conclude that the αCPs play a direct and global role in modulating the splicing activity and inclusion of an array of cassette exons, thus driving a novel pathway of splice site regulation within the mammalian transcriptome.