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Disruption of the developmentally-regulated Col2a1 pre-mRNA alternative splicing switch in a transgenic knock-in mouse model.

Lewis R., Ravindran S., Wirthlin L., Traeger G., Fernandes R.J., McAlinden A.

The present study describes the generation of a knock-in mouse model to address the role of type II procollagen (Col2a1) alternative splicing in skeletal development and maintenance. Alternative splicing of Col2a1 precursor mRNA is a developmentally-regulated event that only occurs in chondrogenic tissue. Normally, chondroprogenitor cells synthesize predominantly exon 2-containing mRNA isoforms (type IIA and IID) while Col2a1 mRNA devoid of exon 2 (type IIB) is the major isoform produced by differentiated chondrocytes. Another isoform, IIC, has also been identified that contains a truncated exon 2 and is not translated into protein. The biological significance of this IIA/IID to IIB splicing switch is not known. Utilizing a splice site targeting knock-in approach, a 4 nucleotide mutation was created to convert the 5' splice site of Col2a1 exon 2 from a weak, non-consensus sequence to a strong, consensus splice site. This resulted in apparent expression of only the IIA mRNA isoform, as confirmed in vitro by splicing of a type II procollagen mini-gene containing the 5' splice site mutation. To test the splice site targeting approach in vivo, homozygote mice engineered to retain IIA exon 2 (Col2a1(+ex2)) were generated. Chondrocytes from hindlimb epiphyseal cartilage of homozygote mice were shown to express only IIA mRNA and protein at all pre- and post-natal developmental stages analyzed (E12.5, E16.5, P0, P3, P7, P14, P28 and P70). As expected, type IIB procollagen was the major isoform produced in wild type cartilage at all post-natal time points. Col2a1(+ex2) homozygote mice are viable, appear healthy and display no overt phenotype to date. However, research is currently underway to investigate the biological consequence of persistent expression of the exon 2-encoded conserved cysteine-rich domain in post-natal skeletal tissues.

Matrix Biol. 31:214-226(2012) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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