Alternative splicing (AS) generates vast transcriptomic complexity in the vertebrate nervous system. However, the extent to which trans-acting splicing regulators and their target AS regulatory networks contribute to nervous system development is not well understood. To address these questions, we generated mice lacking the vertebrate- and neural-specific Ser/Arg repeat-related protein of 100 kDa (nSR100/SRRM4). Loss of nSR100 impairs development of the central and peripheral nervous systems in part by disrupting neurite outgrowth, cortical layering in the forebrain, and axon guidance in the corpus callosum. Accompanying these developmental defects are widespread changes in AS that primarily result in shifts to nonneural patterns for different classes of splicing events. The main component of the altered AS program comprises 3- to 27-nucleotide (nt) neural microexons, an emerging class of highly conserved AS events associated with the regulation of protein interaction networks in developing neurons and neurological disorders. Remarkably, inclusion of a 6-nt, nSR100-activated microexon in Unc13b transcripts is sufficient to rescue a neuritogenesis defect in nSR100 mutant primary neurons. These results thus reveal critical in vivo neurodevelopmental functions of nSR100 and further link these functions to a conserved program of neuronal microexon splicing.
Keywords: SR proteins; alternative splicing; microexons; nervous system development.
© 2015 Quesnel-Vallières et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.