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The degradation of human ether-a-go-go-related gene (hERG, KCNH2) transcripts containing premature termination codon (PTC)mutations by nonsense-mediatedmRNA decay (NMD) is an importantmechanismof long QT syndrome type 2 (LQT2). The mechanisms governing the recognition of PTC-containing hERG transcripts asNMD substrates have not been established. We used a minigene system to study two frameshift mutations, R1032Gfs*25 and D1037Rfs*82. R1032Gfs*25 introduces a PTC in exon 14, whereas D1037Rfs*82 causes a PTC in the last exon (exon 15). We showed that R1032Gfs*25, but not D1037Rfs*82, reduced the level of mutant mRNA compared to thewild-type minigene in an NMD-dependent manner. The deletion of intron 14 prevented degradation of R1032Gfs*25 mRNA indicating that a downstream intron is required for NMD. The recognition and elimination of PTC-containing transcripts by NMD required that the mutation be positioned N54–60 nt upstream of the 3′-most exon–exon junction. Finally, we used a full-length hERG splicing-competent construct to show that inhibition of downstream intron splicing by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides inhibited NMD and rescued the functional expression of a third LQT2 mutation, Y1078*. The present study defines the positional requirements for the susceptibility of LQT2mutations toNMD and posits that the majority of reported LQT2 nonsense and frameshift mutations are potential targets of NMD.


Originally published in Gene, Volume 539, Issue 2, 15 April 2014, Pages 190-197.