LDL cholesterol levels are of fundamental importance in determining risk for cardiovascular disease. Recently, alternative splicing of the two most critical regulators of intracellular cholesterol, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl- coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), the rate-limiting enzyme of cholesterol biosynthesis, and the LDL receptor (LDLR), responsible for uptake of LDL, have been associated with variation in plasma LDL as well as with the magnitude of LDL reduction by simvastatin. Recent evidence has indicated that alternative splicing of four genes involved in cholesterol metabolism (HMGCR, LDLR, HMG-CoA synthase and mevalonate kinase) is coordinately regulated by sterols such that sterol loading increases alternative splicing while sterol depletion suppresses alternative splicing. In addition, genome-wide transcription analysis of simvastatin incubated human lymphocyte cell lines demonstrated that 95 of ~300 known components of supraspliceosomes were responsive to statin (FDR<0.0001). Among these, several splicing factors were implicated in mediating sterol regulation of alternative splicing on the basis of additional lines of evidence including: (1) correlations of variation in gene expression with both cell surface LDLR and plasma LDL concentrations;(2) DNA polymorphisms associated with plasma LDL levels;(3) siRNA knock-down resulting in changes in pre-mRNA splicing;and (4) in silico prediction of known binding motifs. These findings lead to the hypotheses that intracellular cholesterol levels regulate splicing factor(s) to generate coordinated changes in alternative splicing of multiple genes involved in cholesterol synthesis and uptake, and that variation in this process is a determinant of cellular and plasma cholesterol metabolism. Thus, the overall objectives of this proposal are: (1) to demonstrate that alternative splicing is a novel mechanism involved in regulating cellular cholesterol synthesis and uptake as well as plasma LDL levels;and (2) to identify non-genetic and genetic modifiers of this process. To determine if sterol regulated alternative splicing occurs in a larger number of genes in the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway;changes in alternative splicing will be quantified in HepG2 cells, primary human hepatocytes, and immortalized human lymphocyte cell lines treated with specific inhibitors and products of this pathway (Aim 1). The splicing factors responsible for orchestrating these coordinated changes will be identified and validated using siRNA, overexpression constructs and mini-gene constructs (Aim 2). Lastly, the physiological relevance of these observations will be assessed by testing for associations of genetically regulated alternative splicing with both in vivo plasma LDL levels and in vitro cholesterol-related phenotypes. SNP functionality will be confirmed by site directed mutagenesis of mini-gene constructs (Aim 3). Demonstration of the role of alternative splicing in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism and identification of genetic determinants of this process will aid in delineating molecular pathways contributing to inter-individual variation in plasma LDL and thus improve our understanding of cardiovascular disease development and risk.
The goal of this proposal is to test if alternative splicing is a novel mechanism of regulating cholesterol homeostasis. Specifically, we seek to determine the extent of sterol regulated alternative splicing of genes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis and uptake, as well as to identify both genetic and non-genetic regulators of this response that are associated with both in vivo and cellular cholesterol metabolism. Thus, this research will contribute to our understanding of molecular determinants of variation in plasma LDL cholesterol, further adding to our knowledge of cardiovascular disease risk and development.
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