Splicing is highly regulated and is modulated by numerous factors. Quantitative predictions for how a mutation will affect precursor mRNA (pre-mRNA) structure and downstream function are particularly challenging. Here, we use a novel chemical probing strategy to visualize endogenous precursor and mature MAPT mRNA structures in cells. We used these data to estimate Boltzmann suboptimal structural ensembles, which were then analyzed to predict consequences of mutations on pre-mRNA structure. Further analysis of recent cryo-EM structures of the spliceosome at different stages of the splicing cycle revealed that the footprint of the Bact complex with pre-mRNA best predicted alternative splicing outcomes for exon 10 inclusion of the alternatively spliced MAPT gene, achieving 74% accuracy. We further developed a β-regression weighting framework that incorporates splice site strength, RNA structure, and exonic/intronic splicing regulatory elements capable of predicting, with 90% accuracy, the effects of 47 known and 6 newly discovered mutations on inclusion of exon 10 of MAPT. This combined experimental and computational framework represents a path forward for accurate prediction of splicing-related disease-causing variants.
Keywords: RNA structural ensemble; Tau; alternative splicing; beta regression; chemical structure probing; computational biology; disease variants; genetics; genomics; human; systems biology.
© 2022, Kumar et al.