Comparative in vitro and in silico analyses of variants in splicing regions of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and characterization of novel pathogenic mutations

PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57173. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057173. Epub 2013 Feb 22.

Abstract

Several unclassified variants (UVs) have been identified in splicing regions of disease-associated genes and their characterization as pathogenic mutations or benign polymorphisms is crucial for the understanding of their role in disease development. In this study, 24 UVs located at BRCA1 and BRCA2 splice sites were characterized by transcripts analysis. These results were used to evaluate the ability of nine bioinformatics programs in predicting genetic variants causing aberrant splicing (spliceogenic variants) and the nature of aberrant transcripts. Eleven variants in BRCA1 and 8 in BRCA2, including 8 not previously characterized at transcript level, were ascertained to affect mRNA splicing. Of these, 16 led to the synthesis of aberrant transcripts containing premature termination codons (PTCs), 2 to the up-regulation of naturally occurring alternative transcripts containing PTCs, and one to an in-frame deletion within the region coding for the DNA binding domain of BRCA2, causing the loss of the ability to bind the partner protein DSS1 and ssDNA. For each computational program, we evaluated the rate of non-informative analyses, i.e. those that did not recognize the natural splice sites in the wild-type sequence, and the rate of false positive predictions, i.e., variants incorrectly classified as spliceogenic, as a measure of their specificity, under conditions setting sensitivity of predictions to 100%. The programs that performed better were Human Splicing Finder and Automated Splice Site Analyses, both exhibiting 100% informativeness and specificity. For 10 mutations the activation of cryptic splice sites was observed, but we were unable to derive simple criteria to select, among the different cryptic sites predicted by the bioinformatics analyses, those actually used. Consistent with previous reports, our study provides evidences that in silico tools can be used for selecting splice site variants for in vitro analyses. However, the latter remain mandatory for the characterization of the nature of aberrant transcripts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2*
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • RNA Splicing*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction

Substances

  • RNA, Messenger

Grant support

This study was supported by the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC grant No 5757; www.airc.it). G.D.V. was supported by a fellowship from the Soroptimist International d’Italia (club di Varese). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.