Aberrant splicing of the DMP1-ARF-MDM2-p53 pathway in cancer

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Abstract

Alternative splicing (AS) of mRNA precursors is a ubiquitous mechanism for generating numerous transcripts with different activities from one genomic locus in mammalian cells. The gene products from a single locus can thus have similar, dominant-negative or even opposing functions. Aberrant AS has been found in cancer to express proteins that promote cell growth, local invasion and metastasis. This review will focus on the aberrant splicing of tumor suppressor/oncogenes that belong to the DMP1-ARF-MDM2-p53 pathway. Our recent study shows that the DMP1 locus generates both tumor-suppressive DMP1α (p53-dependent) and oncogenic DMP1β (p53-independent) splice variants, and the DMP1β/α ratio increases with neoplastic transformation of breast epithelial cells. This process is associated with high DMP1β protein expression and shorter survival of breast cancer (BC) patients. Accumulating pieces of evidence show that ARF is frequently inactivated by aberrant splicing in human cancers, demonstrating its involvement in human malignancies. Splice variants from the MDM2 locus promote cell growth in culture and accelerate tumorigenesis in vivo. Human cancers expressing these splice variants are associated with advanced stage/metastasis, and thus have negative clinical impacts. Although they lack most of the p53-binding domain, their activities are mostly dependent on p53 since they bind to wild-type MDM2. The p53 locus produces splice isoforms that have either favorable (β/γ at the C-terminus) or negative impact (Δ40, Δ133 at the N-terminus) on patients' survival. As the oncogenic AS products from these loci are expressed only in cancer cells, they may eventually become targets for molecular therapies.

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