Cell survival: Interplay between hypoxia and pre-mRNA splicing

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RNA splicing takes place in the nucleus and occurs either co- or post-transcriptionally. Noncoding sequences (introns) in nuclear mRNA precursors (pre-mRNA) are removed by dedicated splicing machinery. The coding sequences (exons) are joined to generate the mature mRNA that is exported to the cytoplasm and translated into protein. Splicing events are tissue-specific. This process plays an important role in cellular differentiation and organism development. The splicing machinery heavily contributes to biological complexity and especially to the ability of cells to adapt to different developmental stages and altered cellular conditions.

A striking change has been observed in alternative splicing pattern of genes and alterations in splicing factor expression under pathologic conditions especially in human cancers. Cancer cells are often confronted with a significant reduction in oxygen availability, which is a major reason for changeover of major cellular processes. Hypoxic regions have been identified within all solid tumors and their presence has been linked to malignant progression, metastasis, resistance to therapy, and poor clinical outcomes following treatment. Cellular responses to hypoxia are mediated by hypoxia inducible transcription factors (HIFs). This review focuses on currently available data how pre-mRNAs splicing contributes to cellular adaptation to hypoxic conditions, to genes which alternative splicing is regulated dependent on hypoxia and how regulation of alternative splicing under hypoxic conditions is achieved.

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