Evolutionarily conserved autoregulation of alternative pre-mRNA splicing by ribosomal protein L10a.

Alternative splicing of pre-mRNAs can regulate expression of protein-coding genes by generating unproductive mRNAs rapidly degraded by nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD). Many of the genes directly regulated by alternative splicing coupled with NMD (AS-NMD) are related to RNA metabolism, but the repertoire of genes regulated by AS-NMD in vivo is to be determined. Here, we analyzed transcriptome data of wild-type and NMD-defective mutant strains of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans and demonstrate that eight of the 82 cytoplasmic ribosomal protein (rp) genes generate unproductively spliced mRNAs. Knockdown of any of the eight rp genes exerted a dynamic and compensatory effect on alternative splicing of its own transcript and inverse effects on that of the other rp genes. A large subunit protein L10a, termed RPL-1 in nematodes, directly and specifically binds to an evolutionarily conserved 39-nt stretch termed L10ARE between the two alternative 5′ splice sites in its own pre-mRNA to switch the splice site choice. Furthermore, L10ARE-mediated splicing autoregulation of the L10a-coding gene is conserved in vertebrates. These results indicate that L10a is an evolutionarily conserved splicing regulator and that homeostasis of a subset of the rp genes are regulated at the level of pre-mRNA splicing in vivo.