Phytochrome Coordinates with a hnRNP to Regulate Alternative Splicing via an Exonic Splicing Silencer

Plants perceive environmental light conditions and optimize their growth and development accordingly by regulating gene activity at multiple levels. Photoreceptors are important for light sensing and downstream gene regulation. Phytochromes, red/far-red light receptors, are believed to regulate light-responsive alternative splicing, but little is known about the underlying mechanism. Alternative splicing is primarily regulated by transacting factors, such as splicing regulators, and by cis-acting elements in precursor mRNA. In the moss Physcomitrella patens, we show that phytochrome 4 (PpPHY4) directly interacts with a splicing regulator, heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein F1 (PphnRNP-F1), in the nucleus to regulate light-responsive alternative splicing. RNA sequencing analysis revealed that PpPHY4 and PphnRNP-F1 coregulate 70% of intron retention (IR) events in response to red light. A repetitive GAA motif was identified to be an exonic splicing silencer that controls red light-responsive IR. Biochemical studies indicated that PphnRNP-F1 is recruited by the GAA motif to form RNA-protein complexes. Finally, red light elevates PphnRNP-F1 protein levels via PpPHY4, increasing levels of IR. We propose that PpPHY4 and PphnRNP-F1 regulate alternative splicing through an exonic splicing silencer to control splicing machinery activity in response to light.

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