A pair of RNA-binding proteins controls networks of splicing events contributing to specialization of neural cell types.

Norris AD, Gao S, Norris ML, Ray D, Ramani AK, Fraser AG, Morris Q, Hughes TR, Zhen M, Calarco JA

Mol. Cell 2014 Jun 19; 54(6):946-59

PMID: 24910101

Abstract

Alternative splicing is important for the development and function of the nervous system, but little is known about the differences in alternative splicing between distinct types of neurons. Furthermore, the factors that control cell-type-specific splicing and the physiological roles of these alternative isoforms are unclear. By monitoring alternative splicing at single-cell resolution in Caenorhabditis elegans, we demonstrate that splicing patterns in different neurons are often distinct and highly regulated. We identify two conserved RNA-binding proteins, UNC-75/CELF and EXC-7/Hu/ELAV, which regulate overlapping networks of splicing events in GABAergic and cholinergic neurons. We use the UNC-75 exon network to discover regulators of synaptic transmission and to identify unique roles for isoforms of UNC-64/Syntaxin, a protein required for synaptic vesicle fusion. Our results indicate that combinatorial regulation of alternative splicing in distinct neurons provides a mechanism to specialize metazoan nervous systems.