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Developmentally regulated alternative splicing of mRNAs (...)

Eur J Neurosci. 1997 Dec ;9(12):2723-33
Developmentally regulated alternative splicing of mRNAs encoding N-terminal tau variants in the rat hippocampus : structural and functional implications.
Collet J, Fehrat L, Pollard H, Ribas De Pouplana L, Charton G, Bernard A, Moreau J, Ben-Ari Y, Khrestchatisky M.

Tau protein variants are axonal microtubule-associated phosphoproteins whose expression correlates with developmentally regulated neurite outgrowth. A single gene encodes multiple tau transcripts via complex alternative splicing. We studied the expression of the mRNAs encoding N-terminal variants of tau, and we showed distinct alternative splicing of exons 2 and 3 in nervous tissues of the adult rat, including the inner ear, hippocampus, cortex, striatum, brainstem, cerebellum, olfactory bulb and retina. Using the reverse transcriptase-coupled polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization, we then focused our developmental study on hippocampal neurons, both in vivo and in vitro, to address the developmental and spatial expression of the alternatively spliced mRNAs encoding N-terminal variants of tau. Tau mRNAs devoid of exons 2 and 3 were present throughout development, although their levels decreased in adults. Those containing exon 2 but not exon 3 were already present in the hippocampus of newborn rats and their levels increased during the first postnatal week, mainly in the pyramidal cell layer. Tau RNAs containing exons 2 and 3 appeared at the end of this period in the pyramidal cell layer and in the dentate granule cells. Exon 2-containing mRNAs seemed to be associated with cells undergoing axonal sprouting, while exon 3-containing RNAs were expressed in mature neurons that had established their connections. The timing and pattern of tau alternative splicing were maintained in cultured hippocampal neurons, suggesting that splicing processes are independent of the organized connectivity and of the environmental cues provided in vivo. Secondary structure predictions of tau variants revealed that the insertion of the exon 3-encoded domain substantially modifies the secondary structure of the N-terminal region of tau. This N-terminal heterogeneity may confer distinct regulatory roles on the tau variants during ontogeny and may contribute to plasticity in the adult rat brain.


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