Recent studies have investigated alternative splicing profiles of UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) genes and identified over 130 different alternatively spliced UGT transcripts. Although UGT genes are highly clustered, the formation of chimeric transcripts by intergenic splicing between two or more UGT genes has not yet been reported. This study identified 12 chimeric transcripts (chimeras A–L) containing exons from two or three genes of the four neighboring UGT genes (UGT2B15, UGT2B29P2, UGT2B17, and UGT2B29P1) in human liver and prostate cancer cells. These chimeras typically contain the first five exons of UGT2B15 or UGT2B17 (exons 1–5) spliced to a terminal exon (exon 6) from a downstream UGT gene. Hence they encode truncated UGTs with novel C-terminal peptides. Functional assays of representative chimeric UGT proteins (termed chimeric UGT2B15 and chimeric UGT2B17) showed that they are inactive and can repress the activity of wild-type UGTs. Coimmunoprecipitation assays demonstrated heterotypic interactions between chimeric UGT2B15 (or chimeric UGT2B17) and the UGT2B7 protein. Thus oligomerization of the chimeric UGTs with wild-type UGTs may explain their inhibitory activity. Studies in breast and prostate cancer cells showed that both wild-type and chimeric UGT2B15 and UGT2B17 transcripts are regulated in a similar way at the transcriptional level by sex hormones through their canonical promoters but are differentially regulated at the post-transcriptional level by micro-RNA 376c via their unique 39-untranslated regions. In conclusion, the formation of chimeric transcripts by intergenic splicing among UGT genes represents a novel mechanism contributing to the diversity of the human UGT transcriptome and proteome. The differential post-transcriptional regulation of wild-type and variant transcripts by micro-RNAs may contribute to their deregulated expression in cancer.
- UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) genes
- Intergenic splicing
- Cancer cells
- Chimeric transcripts
- UGT transcriptome and proteome