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Cell-specific alternative splicing modulates myriad cell functions and is disrupted in disease. The mechanisms governing alternative splicing are known for relatively few genes and typically focus on RNA splicing factors. In sensory neurons, cell-specific alternative splicing of the presynaptic CaV channel Cacna1b gene modulates opioid sensitivity. How this splicing is regulated is unknown. We find that cell and exon-specific DNA hypomethylation permits CTCF binding, the master regulator of mammalian chromatin structure, which, in turn, controls splicing in a DRG-derived cell line. In vivo, hypomethylation of an alternative exon specifically in nociceptors, likely permits CTCF binding and expression of CaV2.2 channel isoforms with increased opioid sensitivity in mice. Following nerve injury, exon methylation is increased, and splicing is disrupted. Our studies define the molecular mechanisms of cell-specific alternative splicing of a functionally validated exon in normal and disease states - and reveal a potential target for the treatment of chronic pain. © 2020, López Soto and Lipscombe.


Eduardo Javier López Soto, Diane Lipscombe. Cell-specific exon methylation and CTCF binding in neurons regulate calcium ion channel splicing and function. eLife. 2020 Mar 26;9

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PMID: 32213287

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