Background: Active pre-mRNA splicing occurs co-transcriptionally, and takes place throughout the nucleoplasm of eukaryotic cells. Splicing decisions are controlled by networks of nuclear RNA-binding proteins and their target sequences, sometimes in response to signalling pathways. Sam68 (Src-associated in mitosis 68 kDa) is the prototypic member of the STAR (Signal Transduction and Activation of RNA) family of RNA-binding proteins, which regulate splicing in response to signalling cascades. Nuclear Sam68 protein is concentrated within subnuclear organelles called SLM/Sam68 Nuclear Bodies (SNBs), which also contain some other splicing regulators, signalling components and nucleic acids.
Results: We used proteomics to search for the major interacting protein partners of nuclear Sam68. In addition to Sam68 itself and known Sam68-associated proteins (heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins hnRNP A1, A2/B1 and G), we identified hnRNP L as a novel Sam68-interacting protein partner. hnRNP L protein was predominantly present within small nuclear protein complexes approximating to the expected size of monomers and dimers, and was quantitatively associated with nucleic acids. hnRNP L spatially co-localised with Sam68 as a novel component of SNBs and was also observed within the general nucleoplasm. Localisation within SNBs was highly specific to hnRNP L and was not shared by the closely-related hnRNP LL protein, nor any of the other Sam68-interacting proteins we identified by proteomics. The interaction between Sam68 and hnRNP L proteins was observed in a cell line which exhibits low frequency of SNBs suggesting that this association also takes place outside SNBs. Although ectopic expression of hnRNP L and Sam68 proteins independently affected splicing of CD44 variable exon v5 and TJP1 exon 20 minigenes, these proteins did not, however, co-operate with each other in splicing regulation of these target exons.
Conclusion: Here we identify hnRNP L as a novel SNB component. We show that, compared with other identified Sam68-associated hnRNP proteins and hnRNP LL, this co-localisation within SNBs is specific to hnRNP L. Our data suggest that the novel Sam68-hnRNP L protein interaction may have a distinct role within SNBs.