Public Library of Science (PLoS)
The α-thyroid hormone receptor gene (TRα) codes for two functionally distinct proteins: TRα1, the α-thyroid hormone receptor; and TRα2, a non-hormone-binding variant. The final exon of TRα2 mRNA overlaps the 3’ end of Rev-erbα mRNA, which encodes another nuclear receptor on the opposite strand of DNA. To understand the evolution of this antisense overlap, we sequenced these genes and mRNAs in the platypus Orthorhynchus anatinus. Despite its strong homology with other mammals, the platypus TRα/Rev-erbα locus lacks elements essential for expression of TRα2. Comparative analysis suggests that alternative splicing of TRα2 mRNA expression evolved in a stepwise fashion before the divergence of eutherian and marsupial mammals. A short G-rich element (G30) located downstream of the alternative 3’splice site of TRα2 mRNA and antisense to the 3’UTR of Rev-erbα plays an important role in regulating TRα2 splicing. G30 is tightly conserved in eutherian mammals, but is absent in marsupials and monotremes. Systematic deletions and substitutions within G30 have dramatically different effects on TRα2 splicing, leading to either its inhibition or its enhancement. Mutations that disrupt one or more clusters of G residues enhance splicing two- to three-fold. These results suggest the G30 sequence can adopt a highly structured conformation, possibly a G-quadruplex, and that it is part of a complex splicing regulatory element which exerts both positive and negative effects on TRα2 expression. Since mutations that strongly enhance splicing in vivo have no effect on splicing in vitro, it is likely that the regulatory role of G30 is mediated through linkage of transcription and splicing.
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