U2AF2 binds IL7R exon 6 ectopically and represses its inclusion.
Interleukin 7 receptor α-chain is crucial for the development and maintenance of T cells and is genetically associated with autoimmune disorders including multiple sclerosis (MS), a demyelinating disease of the CNS. Exon 6 of IL7R encodes for the transmembrane domain of the receptor and is regulated by alternative splicing: inclusion or skipping of IL7R exon 6 results in membrane-bound or soluble IL7R isoforms, respectively. We previously identified a SNP (rs6897932) in IL7R exon 6, strongly associated with MS risk and showed that the risk allele (C) increases skipping of the exon, resulting in elevated levels of sIL7R. This has important pathological consequences as elevated levels of sIL7R has been shown to exacerbate the disease in the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis mouse model of MS. Understanding the regulation of exon 6 splicing provides important mechanistic insights into the pathogenesis of MS. Here we report two mechanisms by which IL7R exon 6 is controlled. First, a competition between PTBP1 and U2AF2 at the polypyrimidine tract (PPT) of intron 5, and second, an unexpected U2AF2-mediated assembly of spicing factors in the exon. We noted the presence of a branchpoint sequence (BPS) (TACTAAT or TACTAAC) within exon 6, which is stronger with the C allele. We also noted that the BPS is followed by a PPT and conjectured that silencing could be mediated by the binding of U2AF2 to that tract. In support of this model, we show that evolutionary conservation of the exonic PPT correlates well with the degree of alternative splicing of exon 6 in two non-human primate species and that U2AF2 binding to this PPT recruits U2 snRNP components to the exon. These observations provide the first explanation for the stronger silencing of IL7R exon 6 with the disease associated C allele at rs6897932.
Schott, G; Galarza-Muñoz, G; Trevino, N; Chen, X; Weirauch, M; Gregory, SG; Bradrick, SS; Garcia-Blanco, MA
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