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J Neurosci. 2012 Sep 26;32(39):13587-96.

Bcl-x pre-mRNA splicing regulates brain injury after neonatal hypoxia-ischemia.

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  • 1Hope Center for Neurological Disorders and Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


The bcl-x gene appears to play a critical role in regulating apoptosis in the developing and mature CNS and following CNS injury. Two isoforms of Bcl-x are produced as a result of alternative pre-mRNA splicing: Bcl-x(L) (the long form) is anti-apoptotic, while Bcl-x(S) (short form) is pro-apoptotic. Despite the antagonistic activities of these two isoforms, little is known about how regulation of alternative splicing of bcl-x may mediate neural cell apoptosis. Here, we report that apoptotic stimuli (staurosporine or C2-ceramide) reciprocally altered Bcl-x splicing in neural cells, decreasing Bcl-x(L) while increasing Bcl-x(S). Specific knockdown of Bcl-x(S) attenuated apoptosis. To further define regulatory elements that influenced Bcl-x splicing, a Bcl-x minigene was constructed. Deletional analysis revealed several consensus sequences within intron 2 that altered splicing. We found that the splicing factor, CUG-binding-protein-1 (CUGBP1), bound to a consensus sequence close to the Bcl-x(L) 5' splice site, altering the Bcl-x(L)/Bcl-x(S) ratio and influencing cell death. In vivo, neonatal hypoxia-ischemia reciprocally altered Bcl-x pre-mRNA splicing, similar to the in vitro studies. Manipulation of the splice isoforms using viral gene transfer of Bcl-x(S) shRNA into the hippocampus of rats before neonatal hypoxia-ischemia decreased vulnerability to injury. Moreover, alterations in nuclear CUGBP1 preceded Bcl-x splicing changes. These results suggest that alternative pre-mRNA splicing may be an important regulatory mechanism for cell death after acute neurological injury and may potentially provide novel targets for intervention.

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