U2AF1 Mutations Enhance Stress Granule Response in Myeloid Malignancies


Biancon Giulia1,Joshi Poorval1,Zimmer Joshua T2,Hunck Torben1,Gao Yimeng1,Lessard Mark D3,Courchaine Edward2,Barentine Andrew ES3,Machyna Martin2,Botti Valentina2,Qin Ashley1,Gbyli Rana1,Patel Amisha1,Song Yuanbin1,Kiefer Lea2,Viero Gabriella4,Neuenkirchen Nils5,Lin Haifan5,Bewersdorf Joerg3,Simon Matthew D2,Neugebauer Karla M2,Tebaldi Toma1,Halene Stephanie1


1. Section of Hematology, Department of Internal Medicine and Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT

2. Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT

3. Department of Cell Biology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven,

4. Institute of Biophysics, CNR, Trento, Italy

5. Department of Cell Biology and Yale Stem Cell Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT


Abstract Somatic mutations in splicing factor genes are drivers of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The splicing factors U2AF1 and U2AF2 form the U2AF heterodimer that is critical in the 3' splice site (3'SS) recognition and in the recruitment of U2 small nuclear ribonucleoproteins for the activation of the spliceosome complex. U2AF1 carries hotspot mutations in its two RNA binding motifs; yet the molecular mechanisms affecting the splicing process and promoting clonal advantage remain unclear, albeit necessary to develop effective targeted therapies. We applied a multi-omics approach comparing the activities of two U2AF1 mutants (S34F and Q157R) in MDS/AML cell lines and primary samples. Using a novel approach of fractionated enhanced crosslinking immunoprecipitation coupled with deep RNA-sequencing (freCLIP-seq), we mapped transcriptome-wide binding at nucleotide resolution and we identified conformational changes in mutant vs wild-type U2AF1 binding. Specifically, we observed an emergent peak in position -3 of the 3'SS for the S34F mutant and in position +1 for the Q157R mutant, matching the critical positions observed by differential splicing analysis on RNA-seq data. Altered U2AF1-RNA binding compromised U2AF2-RNA interactions, resulting predominantly in exon exclusion and intron retention. Combined binding-splicing analysis showed that while the Q157R mutant mainly exhibits loss of binding, the S34F mutant follows a gain-of-binding pattern, where splicing progression appears impaired by increased mutant binding. Functional analysis of genes affected by both binding and splicing alterations revealed that U2AF1 mutants alter RNA granule biology, affecting in particular stress granule-enriched transcripts and proteins. Stress granules are membrane-less cytoplasmic assemblies of RNAs and RNA binding proteins that improve cellular adaptation in response to stress conditions. Increased stress granule formation has been linked to tumorigenesis as a strategy exploited by cancer cells to regulate gene expression and signal transduction, enhancing their fitness under stress. To probe how aberrant binding and splicing of stress granule components affected stress granule biology, we assessed stress granule formation in U2AF1 mutant vs wild-type cells at steady state and after stress induction with sodium arsenite treatment. Immunofluorescent staining followed by confocal imaging demonstrated that U2AF1 mutations enhance stress granule formation upon arsenite stress in both cell lines and primary samples. RNA turnover analysis by TimeLapse-seq confirmed that U2AF1 S34F and Q157R mutations promote stability/synthesis of transcripts that are enriched in stress granules and determine degradation/shutdown of transcripts that are depleted in stress granules, providing a molecular explanation for the increase in stress granules observed by imaging. Finally, we were able to corroborate our observations by single-cell RNA-seq in patient-derived U2AF1-mutant MDS blasts, establishing the causal link between U2AF1 mutations and upregulation of stress granule components. Collectively, this multi-omics analysis identified biological processes directly influenced by mutant U2AF1 binding and splicing, laying the foundation for a new paradigm where splicing factor mutations enhance stress granule formation by acting on the availability of their RNA and protein components. The enhanced formation of stress granules potentially fosters the stress adaptation of U2AF1-mutant cells, contributing to their clonal advantage in MDS/AML. Stress granule perturbations may therefore represent a novel therapeutic vulnerability in U2AF1-mutant MDS/AML patients and possibly in patients carrying other splicing factor mutations. Disclosures Hunck: Boehringer Ingelheim: Other: Fellowship.


American Society of Hematology


Cell Biology,Hematology,Immunology,Biochemistry








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