Synthesis of mRNA in eukaryotes involves the coordinated action of many enzymatic processes, including initiation, elongation, splicing and cleavage. Kinetic competition between these processes has been proposed to determine RNA fate, yet such coupling has never been observed in vivo on single transcripts. Here, we use dual-color single-molecule RNA imaging in living human cells to construct a complete kinetic profile of transcription and splicing of the β-globin gene. We find that kinetic competition results in multiple competing pathways for pre-mRNA splicing. Splicing of the terminal intron occurs stochastically both before and after transcript release, indicating there is not a strict quality control checkpoint. The majority of pre-mRNAs are spliced after release, while diffusing away from the site of transcription. A single missense point mutation (S34F) in the essential splicing factor U2AF1 which occurs in human cancers perturbs this kinetic balance and defers splicing to occur entirely post-release.
- Douglas L Black, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, United States
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To synchronize flowering time with spring, many plants undergo vernalization, a floral-promotion process triggered by exposure to long-term winter cold. In Arabidopsis thaliana, this is achieved through cold-mediated epigenetic silencing of the floral repressor, FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC). COOLAIR, a cold-induced antisense RNA transcribed from the FLC locus, has been proposed to facilitate FLC silencing. Here, we show that C-repeat (CRT)/dehydration-responsive elements (DREs) at the 3′-end of FLC and CRT/DRE-binding factors (CBFs) are required for cold-mediated expression of COOLAIR. CBFs bind to CRT/DREs at the 3′-end of FLC, both in vitro and in vivo, and CBF levels increase gradually during vernalization. Cold-induced COOLAIR expression is severely impaired in cbfs mutants in which all CBF genes are knocked-out. Conversely, CBF-overexpressing plants show increased COOLAIR levels even at warm temperatures. We show that COOLAIR is induced by CBFs during early stages of vernalization but COOLAIR levels decrease in later phases as FLC chromatin transitions to an inactive state to which CBFs can no longer bind. We also demonstrate that cbfs and FLCΔCOOLAIR mutants exhibit a normal vernalization response despite their inability to activate COOLAIR expression during cold, revealing that COOLAIR is not required for the vernalization process.
Heart development and rhythm control are highly Tbx5 dosage-sensitive. TBX5 haploinsufficiency causes congenital conduction disorders, whereas increased expression levels of TBX5 in human heart samples has been associated with atrial fibrillation (AF). We deleted the conserved mouse orthologues of two independent AF-associated genomic regions in the Tbx5 locus, one intronic (RE(int)) and one downstream (RE(down)) of Tbx5. In both lines we observed a modest (30%) increase of Tbx5 in the postnatal atria. To gain insight into the effects of slight dosage increase in vivo, we investigated the atrial transcriptional, epigenetic and electrophysiological properties of both lines. Increased atrial Tbx5 expression was associated with induction of genes involved in development, ion transport and conduction, with increased susceptibility to atrial arrhythmias, and increased action potential duration of atrial cardiomyocytes. We identified an AF-associated variant in the human RE(int) that increases its transcriptional activity. Expression of the AF-associated transcription factor Prrx1 was induced in Tbx5RE(int)KO cardiomyocytes. We found that some of the transcriptional and functional changes in the atria caused by increased Tbx5 expression were normalized when reducing cardiac Prrx1 expression in Tbx5RE(int)KO mice, indicating an interaction between these two AF genes. We conclude that modest increases in expression of dose-dependent transcription factors, caused by common regulatory variants, significantly impact on the cardiac gene regulatory network and disease susceptibility.