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Chromosoma. 2013 Jun;122(3):191-207. doi: 10.1007/s00412-013-0407-z. Epub 2013 Mar 24.

Regulation of splicing by SR proteins and SR protein-specific kinases.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Institute of Genomic Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0651, USA.


Genomic sequencing reveals similar but limited numbers of protein-coding genes in different genomes, which begs the question of how organismal diversities are generated. Alternative pre-mRNA splicing, a widespread phenomenon in higher eukaryotic genomes, is thought to provide a mechanism to increase the complexity of the proteome and introduce additional layers for regulating gene expression in different cell types and during development. Among a large number of factors implicated in the splicing regulation are the SR protein family of splicing factors and SR protein-specific kinases. Here, we summarize the rules for SR proteins to function as splicing regulators, which depend on where they bind in exons versus intronic regions, on alternative exons versus flanking competing exons, and on cooperative as well as competitive binding between different SR protein family members on many of those locations. We review the importance of cycles of SR protein phosphorylation/dephosphorylation in the splicing reaction with emphasis on the recent molecular insight into the role of SR protein phosphorylation in early steps of spliceosome assembly. Finally, we highlight recent discoveries of SR protein-specific kinases in transducing growth signals to regulate alternative splicing in the nucleus and the connection of both SR proteins and SR protein kinases to human diseases, particularly cancer.

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