Widespread transcript shortening through alternative polyadenylation in secretory cell differentiation

Nat Commun. 2020 Jun 23;11(1):3182. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16959-2.


Most eukaryotic genes produce alternative polyadenylation (APA) isoforms. Here we report that, unlike previously characterized cell lineages, differentiation of syncytiotrophoblast (SCT), a cell type critical for hormone production and secretion during pregnancy, elicits widespread transcript shortening through APA in 3'UTRs and in introns. This global APA change is observed in multiple in vitro trophoblast differentiation models, and in single cells from placentas at different stages of pregnancy. Strikingly, the transcript shortening is unrelated to cell proliferation, a feature previously associated with APA control, but instead accompanies increased secretory functions. We show that 3'UTR shortening leads to transcripts with higher mRNA stability, which augments transcriptional activation, especially for genes involved in secretion. Moreover, this mechanism, named secretion-coupled APA (SCAP), is also executed in B cell differentiation to plasma cells. Together, our data indicate that SCAP tailors the transcriptome during formation of secretory cells, boosting their protein production and secretion capacity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Polyadenylation / physiology*
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Protein Transport / genetics
  • Protein Transport / physiology*
  • RNA Stability
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Transcriptome*


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Protein Isoforms
  • RNA, Messenger