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The KCNH2 or human ether-a go-go-related gene (hERG) encodes the Kv11.1 potassium channel that conducts the rapidly activating delayed rectifier potassium current in the heart. The expression of Kv11.1 C-terminal isoforms is directed by the alternative splicing and polyadenylation of intron 9. Splicing of intron 9 leads to the formation of a functional, full-length Kv11.1a isoform and polyadenylation of intron 9 results in the production of a non-functional, C-terminally truncated Kv11.1a-USO isoform. The relative expression of Kv11.1a and Kv11.1a-USO plays an important role in regulating Kv11.1 channel function. In the heart, only one-third of KCNH2 pre-mRNA is processed to Kv11.1a due to the weak 5′ splice site of intron 9. We previously showed that the weak 5′ splice site is caused by sequence deviation from the consensus, and that mutations toward the consensus sequence increased the efficiency of intron 9 splicing. It is well established that 5′ splice sites are recognized by complementary base-paring with U1 small nuclear RNA (U1 snRNA). In this study, we modified the sequence of U1 snRNA to increase its complementarity to the 5′ splice site of KCNH2 intron 9 and observed a significant increase in the efficiency of intron 9 splicing. RNase protection assay and western blot analysis showed that modified U1 snRNA increased the expression of the functional Kv11.1a isoform and concomitantly decreased the expression of the non-functional Kv11.1a-USO isoform. In patch-clamp experiments, modified U1 snRNA significantly increased Kv11.1 current. Our findings suggest that relative expression of Kv11.1 C-terminal isoforms can be regulated by modified U1 snRNA.


Originally published in Gene, Volume 641, 30 January 2018, Pages 220-225.