Mounting evidence suggests that one of the ways that cells adapt to hypoxia is through alternative splicing. The aim of this study was firstly to examine the effect of hypoxia on the alternative splicing of cancer associated genes using the prostate cancer cell line PC3 as a model. Secondly, the effect of hypoxia on the expression of several regulators of splicing was examined.
PC3 cells were grown in 1% oxygen in a hypoxic chamber for 48 h, RNA extracted and sent for high throughput PCR analysis at the RNomics platform at the University of Sherbrooke, Canada. Genes whose exon inclusion rate PSI (ψ) changed significantly were identified, and their altered exon inclusion rates verified by RT-PCR in three cell lines. The expression of splice factors and splice factor kinases in response to hypoxia was examined by qPCR and western blotting. The splice factor kinase CLK1 was inhibited with the benzothiazole TG003.
In PC3 cells the exon inclusion rate PSI (ψ) was seen to change by > 25% in 12 cancer-associated genes; MBP, APAF1, PUF60, SYNE2, CDC42BPA, FGFR10P, BTN2A2, UTRN, RAP1GDS1, PTPN13, TTC23 and CASP9 (caspase 9). The expression of the splice factors SRSF1, SRSF2, SRSF3, SAM68, HuR, hnRNPA1, and of the splice factor kinases SRPK1 and CLK1 increased significantly in hypoxia. We also observed that the splice factor kinase CLK3, but not CLK2 and CLK4, was also induced in hypoxic DU145 prostate, HT29 colon and MCF7 breast cancer cell lines. Lastly, we show that the inhibition of CLK1 in PC3 cells with the benzothiazole TG003 increased expression of the anti-apoptotic isoform caspase 9b.
Significant changes in alternative splicing of cancer associated genes occur in prostate cancer cells in hypoxic conditions. The expression of several splice factors and splice factor kinases increases during hypoxia, in particular the Cdc-like splice factor kinases CLK1 and CLK3. We suggest that in hypoxia the elevated expression of these regulators of splicing helps cells adapt through alternative splicing of key cancer-associated genes. We suggest that the CLK splice factor kinases could be targeted in cancers in which hypoxia contributes to resistance to therapy.