Null mutations of spliceosome components or cofactors are homozygous lethal in eukaryotes, but viable hypomorphic mutations provide an opportunity to understand the physiological impact of individual splicing proteins. We describe a viable missense allele (F181I) of Rnps1 encoding an essential regulator of splicing and nonsense-mediated decay (NMD), identified in a mouse genetic screen for altered immune cell development. Homozygous mice displayed a stem cell–intrinsic defect in hematopoiesis of all lineages due to excessive apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor (TNF)–dependent death signaling. Numerous transcript splice variants containing retained introns and skipped exons were detected at elevated frequencies in Rnps1F181I/F181I splenic CD8+ T cells and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), but NMD appeared normal. Strikingly, Tnf knockout rescued all hematopoietic cells to normal or near-normal levels in Rnps1F181I/F181I mice and dramatically reduced intron retention in Rnps1F181I/F181I CD8+ T cells and HSCs. Thus, RNPS1 is necessary for accurate splicing, without which disinhibited TNF signaling triggers hematopoietic cell death.
Keywords: TNF; apoptosis; hematopoiesis; splicing.