Functional Analysis of Mutations in Exon 9 of NF1 Reveals the Presence of Several Elements Regulating Splicing

Elisabete Hernández-Imaz, Yolanda Martín, Laura de Conti, German Melean, Ana Valero, Marco Baralle, Concepción Hernández-Chico
PloS One 2015, 10 (10): e0141735
Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is one of the most common human hereditary disorders, predisposing individuals to the development of benign and malignant tumors in the nervous system, as well as other clinical manifestations. NF1 is caused by heterozygous mutations in the NF1 gene and around 25% of the pathogenic changes affect pre-mRNA splicing. Since the molecular mechanisms affected by these mutations are poorly understood, we have analyzed the splicing mutations identified in exon 9 of NF1, which is particularly prone to such changes, to better define the possible splicing regulatory elements. Using a minigene approach, we studied the effect of five splicing mutations in this exon described in patients. These highlighted three regulatory motifs within the exon. An in vivo splicing analysis of an extensive collection of changes generated in the minigene demonstrated that the CG motif at c.910-911 is critical for the recognition of exon 9. We also found that the GC motif at c.945-946 is involved in exon recognition through SRSF2 and that this motif is part of a Composite Exon Splicing Regulatory Element made up of physically overlapping enhancer and silencer elements. Finally, through an in vivo splicing analysis and in vitro binding assays, we demonstrated that the c.1007G>A mutation creates an Exonic Splicing Silencer element that binds the hnRNPA1 protein. The complexity of the splicing regulatory elements present in exon 9 is most likely responsible for the fact that mutations in this region represent 25% of all exonic changes that affect splicing in the NF1 gene.

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