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EMBO J. 2001 Aug 1;20(15):4194-203.

Regulation of alternative pre-mRNA splicing by the ERK MAP-kinase pathway.

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Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft, Institut für Toxikologie und Genetik, Karlsruhe, Germany.


Differential gene expression through alternative pre-mRNA splicing is crucial to various physiological and pathological conditions. Upon activation of B and T lymphocytes during an immune response, variant isoforms of the cell surface molecule CD44 are generated by alternative pre-mRNA splicing. We show here that in primary mouse T cells as well as in the murine LB-17 T-cell line upregulation of variant CD44 mRNA species upon T-cell activation requires activation of the MEK-ERK pathway. By employing mutant signaling molecules and a novel luciferase-based splice reporter system we demonstrate that the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK signaling cascade, but not the p38 MAP-kinase pathway, activates a mechanism that retains variant CD44 exon v5 sequence in mature mRNA. The findings demonstrate that a highly conserved pleiotropic signaling pathway links extracellular cues to splice regulation, providing an avenue for tissue-specific, developmental or pathology-associated splicing decisions.

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