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J Biol Chem. 2001 May 11;276(19):16411-7. Epub 2001 Feb 7.

Modification of alternative splicing of Bcl-x pre-mRNA in prostate and breast cancer cells. analysis of apoptosis and cell death.

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  • 1Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Department of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7295, USA.


There is ample evidence that deregulation of apoptosis results in the development, progression, and/or maintenance of cancer. Since many apoptotic regulatory genes (e.g. bcl-x) code for alternatively spliced protein variants with opposing functions, the manipulation of alternative splicing presents a unique way of regulating the apoptotic response. Here we have targeted oligonucleotides antisense to the 5'-splice site of bcl-x(L), an anti-apoptotic gene that is overexpressed in various cancers, and shifted the splicing pattern of Bcl-x pre-mRNA from Bcl-x(L) to Bcl-x(S), a pro-apoptotic splice variant. This approach induced significant apoptosis in PC-3 prostate cancer cells. In contrast, the same oligonucleotide treatment elicited a much weaker apoptotic response in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Moreover, although the shift in Bcl-x pre-mRNA splicing inhibited colony formation in both cell lines, this effect was much less pronounced in MCF-7 cells. These differences in responses to oligonucleotide treatment were analyzed in the context of expression of Bcl-x(L), Bcl-x(S), and Bcl-2 proteins. The results indicate that despite the presence of Bcl-x pre-mRNA in a number of cell types, the effects of modification of its splicing by antisense oligonucleotides vary depending on the expression profile of the treated cells.

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