Paula Bubulya (Advisor), David Cool (Committee Member), Madhavi Kadakia (Committee Member), Mark Mamrack (Committee Chair), Mill Miller (Committee Member)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Nuclear speckles provide important spatial organization and dynamic regulation for pre-mRNA processing factors in mammalian cells. While the nuclear speckle proteome is complex, little is known at the molecular level about how these factors are organized into nuclear speckles or how alterations in the organization of these factors impacts gene expression. We have discovered a new function for a large (2564 amino acid) nuclear speckle protein called Son in maintaining the organization of pre-mRNA processing factors in nuclear speckles. Depletion of Son by RNAi causes snRNP and serine-arginine rich (SR protein) splicing factors to undergo dramatic disorganization into doughnut-shaped nuclear speckles. Rescue of the disorganized nuclear speckle phenotype requires a region of Son with multiple tandem repeat motifs that are unique to Son. This demonstrates that the tandem repeats of Son are necessary for appropriate localization of pre-mRNA processing factors, and it suggests a potential role for Son as a nuclear speckle scaffold. Surprisingly, in addition to its nuclear functions, Son depletion also results in decreased cell proliferation due to growth arrest in mitosis. Son is critical for promoting the transition from metaphase to anaphase. Son is therefore essential for nuclear organization and function, as well as for normal cell cycle progression. Son is the largest SR protein, and as such it likely has roles roles in pre-mRNA splicing, either at transcription sites or in splicing complex assembly in nuclear speckles. We examined splicing on a stably integrated beta-tropomyosin minigene locus in Son-depleted cells. Immunofluorescence/RNA-FISH indicated that Son localizes at this minigene locus. While Son depletion did not alter mRNA levels or constitutive splicing of beta-tropomyosin reporter transcripts, alternative splice site selection was altered. To identify endogenous human splicing targets of Son, we compared splicing output in control versus Son-depleted HeLa cells by quadruplicate screening on Affymetrix Exon Array 1.0 ST. Our data suggest that Son-regulated splicing encompasses all known types of alternative splicing, the most prominent being alternative splicing of cassette exons. Results from array validation experiments show that Son is essential for appropriate splicing of transcripts encoding chromatin modifiers. Other putative splicing targets for Son have functions in fundamental cellular pathways such as integrin-mediated cell adhesion, cell cycle, cholesterol biosynthesis, and apoptosis.
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