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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Jul;40(13):6255-69. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks249. Epub 2012 Mar 19.

Mutually exclusive splicing regulates the Nav 1.6 sodium channel function through a combinatorial mechanism that involves three distinct splicing regulatory elements and their ligands.

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  • 1International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) 34012, Trieste, Italy.


Mutually exclusive splicing is a form of alternative pre-mRNA processing that consists in the use of only one of a set of two or more exons. We have investigated the mechanisms involved in this process for exon 18 of the Na(v) 1.6 sodium channel transcript and its significance regarding gene-expression regulation. The 18N exon (neonatal form) has a stop codon in phase and although the mRNA can be detected by amplification methods, the truncated protein has not been observed. The switch from 18N to 18A (adult form) occurs only in a restricted set of neural tissues producing the functional channel while other tissues display the mRNA with the 18N exon also in adulthood. We demonstrate that the mRNA species carrying the stop codon is subjected to Nonsense-Mediated Decay, providing a control mechanism of channel expression. We also map a string of cis-elements within the mutually exclusive exons and in the flanking introns responsible for their strict tissue and temporal specificity. These elements bind a series of positive (RbFox-1, SRSF1, SRSF2) and negative (hnRNPA1, PTB, hnRNPA2/B1, hnRNPD-like JKTBP) splicing regulatory proteins. These splicing factors, with the exception of RbFox-1, are ubiquitous but their levels vary during development and differentiation, ensuing unique sets of tissue and temporal levels of splicing factors. The combinatorial nature of these elements is highlighted by the dominance of the elements that bind the ubiquitous factors over the tissue specific RbFox-1.

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