Fmr1 exon 14 skipping in late embryonic development of the rat forebrain

BMC Neurosci. 2022 May 31;23(1):32. doi: 10.1186/s12868-022-00711-1.


Background: Fragile X syndrome, the major cause of inherited intellectual disability among men, is due to deficiency of the synaptic functional regulator FMR1 protein (FMRP), encoded by the FMRP translational regulator 1 (FMR1) gene. FMR1 alternative splicing produces distinct transcripts that may consequently impact FMRP functional roles. In transcripts without exon 14 the translational reading frame is shifted. For deepening current knowledge of the differential expression of Fmr1 exon 14 along the rat nervous system development, we conducted a descriptive study employing quantitative RT-PCR and BLAST of RNA-Seq datasets.

Results: We observed in the rat forebrain progressive decline of total Fmr1 mRNA from E11 to P112 albeit an elevation on P3; and exon-14 skipping in E17-E20 with downregulation of the resulting mRNA. We tested if the reduced detection of messages without exon 14 could be explained by nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) vulnerability, but knocking down UPF1, a major component of this pathway, did not increase their quantities. Conversely, it significantly decreased FMR1 mRNA having exon 13 joined with either exon 14 or exon 15 site A.

Conclusions: The forebrain in the third embryonic week of the rat development is a period with significant skipping of Fmr1 exon 14. This alternative splicing event chronologically precedes a reduction of total Fmr1 mRNA, suggesting that it may be part of combinatorial mechanisms downregulating the gene's expression in the late embryonic period. The decay of FMR1 mRNA without exon 14 should be mediated by a pathway different from NMD. Finally, we provide evidence of FMR1 mRNA stabilization by UPF1, likely depending on FMRP.

Keywords: Cerebellum; Fmr1; Forebrain; Fragile X syndrome-alternative splicing; Nervous system; Nonsense-mediated decay (NMD); UPF1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing* / genetics
  • Animals
  • Embryonic Development
  • Exons / genetics
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein* / genetics
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein* / metabolism
  • Prosencephalon* / embryology
  • RNA Helicases / genetics
  • RNA Helicases / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism


  • Fmr1 protein, rat
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Trans-Activators
  • UPF1 protein, rat
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein
  • RNA Helicases