The survival motor neuron (SMN) protein: effect of exon loss and mutation on protein localization
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Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is caused by mutations in the telomeric copy of the survival motor neuron gene ( SMN1 ) but not mutations in the centromeric copy ( SMN2 ). The critical difference between the two genes is a nucleotide difference in exon 7 that affects splicing and causes this exon to be spliced out of most SMN2 transcripts. A majority of the SMN1 gene transcripts contain exon 7. To investigate the effect of exon loss or mutations in SMN on protein localization, 15 SMN constructs were prepared and transfected into COS-7 cells and fibroblasts derived from a type I SMA patient. Loss of exon 5 (Iso5-SMN), a putative nuclear localization signal in exon 2, and the G279V point mutation had little effect on SMN localization. Loss of both exons 5 and 7 (Iso57-SMN) resulted in low gem numbers and the localization of the majority of the SMN protein to the cytoplasm. Cells expressing constructs lacking only exon 7 (Iso7-SMN) did not produce large numbers of gems in general, although there were a few cells that had a staining pattern similar to cells transfected with a full-length (Full-SMN) construct. HeLa cells stably transfected with full-length SMN or Iso7-SMN did not overexpress SMN, and both constructs produced a similar localization of the protein, although Iso7-SMN formed gems less efficiently. Removal of the amino-terminus, deletion of the conserved domain in exon 2A, and the mutation Y272C all caused accumulation of SMN in the nucleus, sometimes in large aggregates. These findings suggest that the amino-terminal domain of SMN is essential for the correct cellular distribution of SMN, whereas Iso7-SMN is capable of forming gems, albeit at a reduced efficiency.
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