Biomedical Impact of Splicing Mutations Revealed through Exome Sequencing
Splicing is a cellular mechanism, which dictates eukaryotic gene expression by removing the noncoding introns and ligating the coding exons in the form of a messenger RNA molecule. Alternative splicing (AS) adds a major level of complexity to this mechanism and thus to the regulation of gene expression. This widespread cellular phenomenon generates multiple messenger RNA isoforms from a single gene, by utilizing alternative splice sites and promoting different exon-intron inclusions and exclusions. AS greatly increases the coding potential of eukaryotic genomes and hence contributes to the diversity of eukaryotic proteomes. Mutations that lead to disruptions of either constitutive splicing or AS cause several diseases, among which are myotonic dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. Aberrant splicing is also well established in cancer states. Identification of rare novel mutations associated with splice-site recognition, and splicing regulation in general, could provide further insight into genetic mechanisms of rare diseases. Here, disease relevance of aberrant splicing is reviewed, and the new methodological approach of starting from disease phenotype, employing exome sequencing and identifying rare mutations affecting splicing regulation is described. Exome sequencing has emerged as a reliable method for finding sequence variations associated with various disease states. To date, genetic studies using exome sequencing to find disease-causing mutations have focused on the discovery of nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms that alter amino acids or introduce early stop codons, or on the use of exome sequencing as a means to genotype known single nucleotide polymorphisms. The involvement of splicing mutations in inherited diseases has received little attention and thus likely occurs more frequently than currently estimated. Studies of exome sequencing followed by molecular and bioinformatic analyses have great potential to reveal the high impact of splicing mutations underlying human disease.
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