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Critical Reviews™ in Eukaryotic Gene Expression

Impact factor: 4.111

ISSN Print: 1045-4403
ISSN Online: 2162-6502

Critical Reviews™ in Eukaryotic Gene Expression

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevEukaryotGeneExpr.v14.i4.30
16 pages

The Regulation and Regulatory Activities of Alternative Splicing of the SMN Gene

Natalia N. Singh
Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605-2324
Elliot J. Androphy
Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605-2324
Ravindra N. Singh
Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605-2324

ABSTRACT

Alternative splicing is an essential process that produces protein diversity in humans. It is also the cause of many complex diseases. Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the second most common autosomal recessive disorder, is caused by the absence of or mutations in the Survival Motor Neuron 1 (SMN1) gene, which encodes an essential protein. A nearly identical copy of the gene, SMN2, fails to compensate for the loss of SMN1 because exon 7 is alternatively spliced, producing a truncated protein, which is unstable. SMN1 and SMN2 differ by a critical C-to-T substitution at position 6 of exon 7 in SMN2 (C6U transition in mRNA). This substitution alone is enough to cause an exon 7 exclusion in SMN2. Various cis- and trans-acting factors have been shown to neutralize the inhibitory effects of C6U transition. Published reports propose models in which either abrogation of an enhancer element associated with SF2/ASF or gain of a silencer element associated with hnRNP A1 is the major cause of exon 7 exclusion in SMN2. Most recent model suggests the presence of an EXtended INhibitory ContexT (Exinct) that is formed as a consequence of C6U transition in exon 7 of SMN2. In Exinct model, several factors may affect exon 7 splicing through cooperative interactions. Such regulation may be common to many alternatively spliced exons in humans. Recent advances in our understanding of SMN gene splicing reveals multiple challenges that are specific to in vivo regulation, which we now know is intimately connected with other biological pathways.