Evidence in disease and non-disease contexts that nonsense mutations cause altered splicing via motif disruption

Liam Abrahams, Rosina Savisaar, Christine Mordstein, Bethan Young, Grzegorz Kudla, Laurence Hurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)


Transcripts containing premature termination codons (PTCs) can be subject to nonsense-associated alternative splicing (NAS). Two models have been evoked to explain this, scanning and splice motif disruption. The latter postulates that exonic cis motifs, such as exonic splice enhancers (ESEs), are disrupted by nonsense mutations. We employ genome-wide transcriptomic and k-mer enrichment methods to scrutinize this model. First, we show that ESEs are prone to disruptive nonsense mutations owing to their purine richness and paucity of TGA, TAA and TAG. The motif model correctly predicts that NAS rates should be low (we estimate 5-30%) and approximately in line with estimates for the rate at which random point mutations disrupt splicing (8-20%). Further, we find that, as expected, NAS-associated PTCs are predictable from nucleotide-based machine learning approaches to predict splice disruption and, at least for pathogenic variants, are enriched in ESEs. Finally, we find that both in and out of frame mutations to TAA, TGA or TAG are associated with exon skipping. While a higher relative frequency of such skip-inducing mutations in-frame than out of frame lends some credence to the scanning model, these results reinforce the importance of considering splice motif modulation to understand the etiology of PTC-associated disease.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbergkab750
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number17
Early online date1 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2021


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