The Impact of Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines on Alternative Splicing Patterns in Human Islets

Diabetes. 2021 Oct 25;db200847. doi: 10.2337/db20-0847. Online ahead of print.


Alternative splicing (AS) within the β cell has been proposed as one potential pathway that may exacerbate autoimmunity and unveil novel immunogenic epitopes in type 1 diabetes (T1D). We employed a computational strategy to prioritize pathogenic splicing events in human islets treated with IL-1β + IFN-γ as an ex vivo model of T1D and coupled this analysis with a k-mer based approach to predict RNA binding proteins involved in AS. In total, 969 AS events were identified in cytokine-treated islets, with the majority (44.8%) involving a skipped exon. ExonImpact identified 129 events predicted to impact protein structure. AS occurred with high frequency in MHC Class II-related mRNAs, and targeted qPCR validated reduced inclusion of Exon5 in the MHC Class II gene HLA-DMB. Single molecule RNA FISH confirmed increased HLA-DMB splicing in pancreatic sections from human donors with established T1D and autoantibody positivity. Serine and Arginine Rich Splicing Factor 2 was implicated in 37.2% of potentially pathogenic events, including Exon5 exclusion in HLA-DMB. Together, these data suggest that dynamic control of AS plays a role in the β cell response to inflammatory signals during T1D evolution.