RNA transport and regulated local translation play critically important roles in spatially restricting gene expression in neurons. Heterogeneous population of RNA granules serve as motile units to translocate, store, translate, and degrade mRNAs in the dendrites contain cis-elements and trans-acting factors such as RNA-binding proteins and microRNAs to convey stimulus-, transcript-specific local translation. Here we report a class of mRNA granules in human neuronal processes that are enriched in the nuclear cap-binding protein complex (CBC) and exon junction complex (EJC) core components, Y14 and eIF4AIII. These granules are physically associated with stabilized microtubules and are spatially segregated from eIF4E-enriched granules and P-bodies. The existence of mRNAs retaining both nuclear cap binding protein and EJC in the distal sites of neuronal processes suggests that some localized mRNAs have not yet undergone the “very first translation,” which contribute to the spatio-temporal regulation of gene expression.
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The 5′ splice site mutation (IVS20+6T>C) of the inhibitor of κ light polypeptide gene enhancer in B cells, kinase complex-associated protein (IKBKAP) gene in familial dysautonomia (FD) is at the sixth intronic nucleotide of the 5′ splice site. It is known to weaken U1 snRNP recognition and result in an aberrantly spliced mRNA product in neuronal tissue, but normally spliced mRNA in other tissues. Aberrantly spliced IKBKAP mRNA abrogates IKK complex-associated protein (IKAP)/elongator protein 1 (ELP1) expression and results in a defect of neuronal cell development in FD. To elucidate the tissue-dependent regulatory mechanism, we screened an expression library of major RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) with our mammalian dual-color splicing reporter system and identified RBM24 as a regulator. RBM24 functioned as a cryptic intronic splicing enhancer binding to an element (IVS20+13–29) downstream from the intronic 5′ splice site mutation in the IKBKAP gene and promoted U1 snRNP recognition only to the mutated 5′ splice site (and not the wild-type 5′ splice site). Our results show that tissue-specific expression of RBM24 can explain the neuron-specific aberrant splicing of IKBKAP exon 20 in familial dysautonomia, and that ectopic expression of RBM24 in neuronal tissue could be a novel therapeutic target of the disease.
Pre-mRNA splicing is an essential step for gene expression in higher eukaryotes. Alternative splicing contributes to diversity of the expressed proteins from the limited number of genes. Disruption of splicing regulation often results in hereditary and sporadic diseases called as ‘RNA diseases’. Modulation of splicing by small chemical compounds and nucleic acids has been tried to target aberrant splicing in those diseases. Several RNA diseases and splicing-target therapeutic approaches will be briefly introduced in this review. Accumulating knowledge about molecular mechanism of aberrant splicing and their correction by chemical compounds is important not only for RNA biologists, but also for clinicians who desire therapies for those diseases.