The essential splicing factor SF2/ASF and the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 (hnRNP A1) modulate alternative splicing in vitro of pre-mRNAs that contain 5' splice sites of comparable strengths competing for a common 3' splice site. Using natural and model pre- mRNAs, we have examined whether the ratio of SF2/ASF to hnRNP A1 also regulates other modes of alternative splicing in vitro. We found that an excess of SF2/ASF effectively prevents inappropriate exon skipping and also influences the selection of mutually exclusive tissue-specific exons in natural beta-tropomyosin pre-mRNA. In contrast, an excess of hnRNP A1 does not cause inappropriate exon skipping in natural constitutively or alternatively spliced pre-mRNAs. Although hnRNP A1 can promote alternative exon skipping, this effect is not universal and is dependent, e.g., on the size of the internal alternative exon and on the strength of the polypyrimidine tract in the preceding intron. With appropriate alternative exons, an excess of SF2/ASF promotes exon inclusion, whereas an excess of hnRNP A1 causes exon skipping. We propose that in some cases the ratio of SF2/ASF to hnRNP A1 may play a role in regulating alternative splicing by exon inclusion or skipping through the antagonistic effects of these proteins on alternative splice site selection.
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