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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Sep;40(16):8059-71. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks504. Epub 2012 Jun 8.

Control of alternative splicing by forskolin through hnRNP K during neuronal differentiation.

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Department of Physiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3E 0J9, Canada.


The molecular basis of cell signal-regulated alternative splicing at the 3' splice site remains largely unknown. We isolated a protein kinase A-responsive ribonucleic acid (RNA) element from a 3' splice site of the synaptosomal-associated protein 25 (Snap25) gene for forskolin-inhibited splicing during neuronal differentiation of rat pheochromocytoma PC12 cells. The element binds specifically to heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleo protein (hnRNP) K in a phosphatase-sensitive way, which directly competes with the U2 auxiliary factor U2AF65, an essential component of early spliceosomes. Transcripts with similarly localized hnRNP K target motifs upstream of alternative exons are enriched in genes often associated with neurological diseases. We show that such motifs upstream of the Runx1 exon 6 also bind hnRNP K, and importantly, hnRNP K is required for forskolin-induced repression of the exon. Interestingly, this exon encodes the peptide domain that determines the switch of the transcriptional repressor/activator activity of Runx1, a change known to be critical in specifying neuron lineages. Consistent with an important role of the target genes in neurons, knocking down hnRNP K severely disrupts forskolin-induced neurite growth. Thus, through hnRNP K, the neuronal differentiation stimulus forskolin targets a critical 3' splice site component of the splicing machinery to control alternative splicing of crucial genes. This also provides a regulated direct competitor of U2AF65 for cell signal control of 3' splice site usage.

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