Stability and potential application of spliced nuclear pre-mRNA introns

Jade Qiuyu Clement, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


A major portion of this thesis work was dedicated to study the nature and significance of spliced introns. The initial work was focused on studying the IVS1$\sb{\rm C\beta 1}$ intron from a T-cell receptor (TCR)-$\beta$ gene. Compared to an intron lariat control from adenovirus pre-mRNA that was spliced in vitro, IVS1$\sb{\rm C\beta 1}$ was debranched less efficiently by HeLa S100 extracts, although IVS1$\sb{\rm C\beta 1}$ also used the consensus branchpoint in vivo. Subcellular-fractionation analysis showed that most IVS1$\sb{\rm C\beta 1}$ lariats cofractionated with pre-mRNA in the nucleus, consistent with the possibility that intron degradation releases splicing factors which will be available for further rounds of splicing. The half-life of IVS1$\sb{\rm C\beta 1}$ from the endogenous TCR-$\beta$ gene was measured using the general transcription inhibitor actinomycin D to be about $\sim$15 min, which was similar to that of unstable mRNAs such as c-myc mRNA. The general transcription inhibitor DRB was also used for intron stability analysis. Unexpectedly, DRB decreased intron and pre-mRNA levels only initially, it later increased the levels of intron-containing RNAs. Inhibition of transcription initiation appeared to be the major early effect (the reduction phase); whereas enhanced premature transcription termination was dominant later (the induction phase). Having established the procedures for studying in vivo spliced introns, this approach was applied to study the mechanism of nonsense-mediated downregulation (NMD), a phenomena in which premature termination codons (PTCs) decrease the levels of mRNAs. In this study, the novel intron-oriented approach was applied to study the mechanism of NMD. The levels of spliced introns immediately upstream and downstream of a PTC-bearing exon in a TCR-$\beta$ gene were identified and analyzed along with their pre-mRNA. Although PTC reduced the mRNA levels by 4 to 9 fold, the steady-state levels of spliced introns and the pre-mRNA-to-intron ratios were not significantly altered, indicating that the PTC did not significantly inhibit TCR-$\beta$ RNA splicing. Consistent with this conclusion, the half-lives of the PTC$\sp+$ and PTC$\sp-$ pre-mRNA were similar. The protein synthesis inhibitor cyclohexmide (CHX) upregulated the levels of the PTC$\sp+$ mRNA over 10 fold without affecting the levels of the spliced introns, suggesting that the reversal effect of CHX was through stabilization, not production. These results indicated that inhibition of splicing could not be the major mechanism for the NMD pathway of the TCR-$\beta$ gene, instead, suggesting that mRNA destabilization may be more important. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Clement, Jade Qiuyu, "Stability and potential application of spliced nuclear pre-mRNA introns" (1998). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9909437.