Diverse splicing mechanisms fuse the evolutionarily conserved bicistronic MOCS1A and MOCS1B open reading frames

a1 Department of Genetics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Center for Human Genetics, University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA


Molybdenum is an essential cofactor in many enzymes, but must first be complexed by molybdopterin, whose synthesis requires four enzymatic activities. The first two enzymes of this pathway are encoded by the MOCS1 locus in humans. We describe here a remarkably well-conserved novel mRNA splicing phenomenon that produces both an apparently bicistronic MOCS1AM-OCS1B transcript, as well as a distinct class of monocistronic transcript. The latter are created by a variety of splicing mechanisms (alternative splice donors, alternative splice acceptors, and exon-skipping) to bypass the normal termination nonsense codon of MOCS1A resulting in fusion of the MOCS1A and MOCS1B open reading frames. Therefore, these “no-nonsense” transcripts encode a single bifunctional protein embodying both MOCS1A and MOCS1B activities. This coexpression profile was observed in vertebrates (human, mouse, cow, rabbit, opossum, and chicken) and invertebrates (fruit fly and nematode) spanning at least 700 million years of evolution. Our phylogenetic data also provide evidence that the bicistronic form of MOCS1 mRNA is likely to only produce MOCS1A protein and, combined with Northern analyses, suggests that MOCS1B is translated only as a fusion with MOCS1A. Taken together, the data presented here demonstrate a very highly conserved and physiologically relevant dynamic splicing scheme that profoundly influences the protein-coding potential of the MOCS1 locus.

(Received January 27 2000)
(Revised February 17 2000)
(Accepted April 13 2000)

Key Words: evolution; molybdenum; mRNA splicing; polycistronic; translation regulation.

c1 Reprint requests to: Robert D. Nicholls, Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, University of Pennsylvania, Room 528, Clinical Research Building, 415 Curie Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.