T cell activation is a well-established model for studying cellular responses to exogenous stimulation. Using strand-specific RNA-seq, we observed that intron retention is prevalent in polyadenylated transcripts in resting CD4(+) T cells and is significantly reduced upon T cell activation. Several lines of evidence suggest that intron-retained transcripts are less stable than fully spliced transcripts. Strikingly, the decrease in intron retention (IR) levels correlate with the increase in steady-state mRNA levels. Further, the majority of the genes upregulated in activated T cells are accompanied by a significant reduction in IR. Of these 1583 genes, 185 genes are predominantly regulated at the IR level, and highly enriched in the proteasome pathway, which is essential for proper T cell proliferation and cytokine release. These observations were corroborated in both human and mouse CD4(+) T cells. Our study revealed a novel post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism that may potentially contribute to coordinated and/or quick cellular responses to extracellular stimuli such as an acute infection.
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research 2016. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.