September 22, 2019  |  

Targeted combinatorial alternative splicing generates brain region-specific repertoires of neurexins.

Molecular diversity of surface receptors has been hypothesized to provide a mechanism for selective synaptic connectivity. Neurexins are highly diversified receptors that drive the morphological and functional differentiation of synapses. Using a single cDNA sequencing approach, we detected 1,364 unique neurexin-a and 37 neurexin-ß mRNAs produced by alternative splicing of neurexin pre-mRNAs. This molecular diversity results from near-exhaustive combinatorial use of alternative splice insertions in Nrxn1a and Nrxn2a. By contrast, Nrxn3a exhibits several highly stereotyped exon selections that incorporate novel elements for posttranscriptional regulation of a subset of transcripts. Complexity of Nrxn1a repertoires correlates with the cellular complexity of neuronal tissues, and a specific subset of isoforms is enriched in a purified cell type. Our analysis defines the molecular diversity of a critical synaptic receptor and provides evidence that neurexin diversity is linked to cellular diversity in the nervous system. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

September 22, 2019  |  

Cartography of neurexin alternative splicing mapped by single-molecule long-read mRNA sequencing.

Neurexins are evolutionarily conserved presynaptic cell-adhesion molecules that are essential for normal synapse formation and synaptic transmission. Indirect evidence has indicated that extensive alternative splicing of neurexin mRNAs may produce hundreds if not thousands of neurexin isoforms, but no direct evidence for such diversity has been available. Here we use unbiased long-read sequencing of full-length neurexin (Nrxn)1a, Nrxn1ß, Nrxn2ß, Nrxn3a, and Nrxn3ß mRNAs to systematically assess how many sites of alternative splicing are used in neurexins with a significant frequency, and whether alternative splicing events at these sites are independent of each other. In sequencing more than 25,000 full-length mRNAs, we identified a novel, abundantly used alternatively spliced exon of Nrxn1a and Nrxn3a (referred to as alternatively spliced sequence 6) that encodes a 9-residue insertion in the flexible hinge region between the fifth LNS (laminin-a, neurexin, sex hormone-binding globulin) domain and the third EGF-like sequence. In addition, we observed several larger-scale events of alternative splicing that deleted multiple domains and were much less frequent than the canonical six sites of alternative splicing in neurexins. All of the six canonical events of alternative splicing appear to be independent of each other, suggesting that neurexins may exhibit an even larger isoform diversity than previously envisioned and comprise thousands of variants. Our data are consistent with the notion that a-neurexins represent extracellular protein-interaction scaffolds in which different LNS and EGF domains mediate distinct interactions that affect diverse functions and are independently regulated by independent events of alternative splicing.

September 22, 2019  |  

Quantitative isoform-profiling of highly diversified recognition molecules.

Complex biological systems rely on cell surface cues that govern cellular self-recognition and selective interactions with appropriate partners. Molecular diversification of cell surface recognition molecules through DNA recombination and complex alternative splicing has emerged as an important principle for encoding such interactions. However, the lack of tools to specifically detect and quantify receptor protein isoforms is a major impediment to functional studies. We here developed a workflow for targeted mass spectrometry by selected reaction monitoring (SRM) that permits quantitative assessment of highly diversified protein families. We apply this workflow to dissecting the molecular diversity of the neuronal neurexin receptors and uncover an alternative splicing-dependent recognition code for synaptic ligands.

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