Survivin 2α: a novel Survivin splice variant expressed in human malignancies
© Caldas et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2005
Received: 20 January 2005
Accepted: 02 March 2005
Published: 02 March 2005
Survivin and its alternative splice forms are involved in critical cellular processes, including cell division and programmed cell death. Survivin is expressed in the majority of human cancers, but minimally in differentiated normal tissues. Expression levels correlate with tumor aggressiveness and resistance to therapy.
In the present study, we identify and characterize a novel survivin isoform that we designate survivin 2α. Structurally, the transcript consists of 2 exons: exon 1 and exon 2, as well as a 3' 197 bp region of intron 2. Acquisition of a new in-frame stop codon within intron 2 results in an open reading frame of 225 nucleotides, predicting a truncated 74 amino acid protein. Survivin 2α is expressed at high levels in several malignant cell lines and primary tumors. Functional assays show that survivin 2α attenuates the anti-apoptotic activity of survivin. Subcellular localization and immunoprecipitation of survivin 2α suggests a physical interaction with survivin.
We characterized a novel survivin splice variant that we designated survivin 2α. We hypothesize that survivin 2α can alter the anti-apoptotic functions of survivin in malignant cells. Thus survivin 2α may be useful as a therapeutic tool in sensitizing chemoresistant tumor cells to chemotherapy.
Alternative splicing is estimated to occur in 40–60% of all human genes, accounting for some of the discrepancies between the large number of known proteins and the three-fold lower number of human genes in the genome. Alternative splicing generates a multitude of isoforms that have overlapping but distinct functions during embryonic development and that also contribute to maintaining homeostasis in adult differentiated tissues (reviewed in ). Alternative splice forms of key proteins in cancer, TP53, MDM2  and c-MYC , have been shown to play a role in oncogenesis.
Survivin has 2 main functions; one as a chromosomal passenger protein  and the other as an inhibitor of apoptosis . Survivin 2B has been shown to be a pro-apoptotic protein that sensitizes resistant leukemia cells to chemotherapy in a p53-dependent fashion . Survivin-Δ Ex3 functions as an anti-apoptotic protein and is upregulated in malignancies (Mahotka et al., 1999). No function has yet been described for survivin-3B.
In this report we identify and characterize a novel isoform of survivin, survivin 2α. We show that survivin 2α is expressed at high levels in malignant cells, co-localizes with survivin and has the potential to attenuate the anti-apoptotic effect of survivin.
Results and Discussion
Structural Characteristics of Survivin 2α
Table of the predicted localization and structural features of survivin and the novel isoform survivin 2α.
Predicted Molecular Weight
The BIR domain has been shown to be important for homodimerization and coordination of the zinc atom co-factor . In the survivin protein, Histidine 80 (H80) is required for zinc atom coordination and homodimerization. Expression constructs containing mutations at this residue within the Survivin protein have previously been shown to accelerate PCD (Programmed Cell Death) in vitro. Similarly, mutations in Cytosine 84 (C84) enhance PCD, as a result of displacement of the wild type Survivin protein . The Survivin 2α protein, truncated at amino acid 74, lacks both of these amino acid residues. Additionally, Survivin 2α lacks the third alpha helix in the BIR domain. As the anti-apoptotic function of Survivin is mediated both by the BIR domain and by the interaction of its C-terminal coiled coil domain with microtubules of the mitotic spindle [10, 14, 15], it would be predicted that Survivin 2α might not have anti-apoptotic properties.
Survivin 2α is highly expressed in tumor cells
Survivin 2α expression (relative to normal tissue).
Normal Breast (MCF10A)
Breast Carcinoma (MCF7)
Soft Tissue Sarcoma (RH28)
Cervical Carcinoma (HeLa)
Expression of survivin splice variants in medulloblastoma (relative to survivin)
Functional Properties of Survivin 2α
Survivin 2α alters the subcellular localization of survivin
Survivin 2α physically interacts with survivin
We characterized a novel survivin splice variant that we designated survivin 2α. We hypothesize that survivin 2α can alter the anti-apoptotic functions of survivin in malignant cells. Thus, survivin 2α may be useful as a therapeutic tool in sensitizing chemoresistant tumor cells to chemotherapy.
Seven fresh frozen primary medulloblastoma tumor samples were obtained from the Cooperative Human Tumor Network (CHTN), after approval through the Columbus Children's Hospital IRB.
IMAGE clone 1631662 (Invitrogen) was sequenced using primers that flanked the multiple-cloning-site.
Plasmids and Cloning
The cDNA for survivin 2α was amplified from the EST clone (Invitrogen) and cloned into the Kpn I-Bam HI sites of pcDNA4/TO/myc-HisB (Invitrogen) generating an in-frame fusion with the C-terminal myc-tag, or into the Kpn I-Bam HI sites of pEGFP-N3 generating an in-frame fusion with the C-terminal GFP tag. The start codon in both constructs corresponds to the naturally occurring start codon in the cDNA transcript. The resulting clones were confirmed by sequencing.
Cell Culture and Transfection
HeLa (cervical adenocarcinoma), Daoy (medulloblastoma), Jurkat (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) and MCF-7 (breast adenocarcinoma) cells (ATCC) were grown in DMEM supplemented with 10% FBS at 37°C, 5% CO2; U2OS osteosarcoma cells (kindly donated by Dr. Greg Otterson) were grown in McCoy's 5A medium supplemented with 10% FBS at 37°C, 5% CO2; RH28 (alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, kindly donated by Dr. Steve Qualman) and A549 (lung carcinoma) (ATCC) were grown in RPMI1640 supplemented with 10% FBS at 37°C, 5% CO2. MCF10-A, a non-transformed breast cell line (ATCC) was grown in MEGM, Mammary Epithelial Growth Medium, Serum-free, (Clonetics) supplemented with 100 ng/ml cholera toxin (Sigma Aldrich) at 37°C, 5% CO2.
Transient transfections were performed using Effectene transfection reagent (Qiagen) at a DNA: Effectene ratio of 1:10.
Induction of apoptosis by vincristine was done by treatment of cells with complete growth medium supplemented with vincristine sulfate at a final concentration of 2 μM.
RNA isolation and Real Time PCR
RNA was isolated from 106 proliferating cells or frozen tumor tissue using TriZol reagent (Invitrogen) as recommended by the supplier. Poly(A) RNA was purified using Oligotex dT kit (Qiagen). 100 ng of poly(A) purified RNA was used as a template in a reverse transcription reaction using random hexamers and Omniscript Reverse transcriptase (Qiagen) and performed according to manufacturer's instructions. Quantitative real-time PCR reactions using Taqman probes (FAM/TAMRA) were run in triplicate on an ABI Prism 7700 Real-time PCR machine (Applied Biosystems). Control GAPDH reactions (Applied Biosystems) were run to normalize ΔCt values. Relative change was calculated by the comparative CT method, 2(-ΔΔCt). The survivin 2α specific primers consist of: Forward 5'GCTTTGTTTTGAACTGAGTTGTCAA; Reverse 5'GCAATGAGGGTGGAAAGCA; and Probe: 6FAM AGATTTGAGTTGCAAAGACACTTAGTATGGGAGGG TAMRA
Two apoptosis assays were performed: Caspase-3 assay and Annexin-V FLUOS. For caspase assays 2,000 cells from each experimental condition were subjected to the caspase-3 assay, Caspase 3/7 GLO (Promega) and analyzed on a Victor3 plate reader (Applied Biosystems). Experiments were performed in triplicate.
Annexin V/propidium iodide staining was carried out using the Roche Annexin-V-Fluos Staining Kit following the manufacturer's instructions. Fluorescein and propidium iodide fluorescence measured with a Coulter EPICS XL flow cytometer. Experiments were performed in triplicate.
Proliferating HeLa cells, grown on glass coverslips, were transiently transfected with a GFP-tagged survivin 2α expression construct or co-transfected with GFP-tagged survivin 2α and HcRed-tagged survivin. 24 hours post-transfection the cells were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde and stained with 50 μg/ml Hoechst dye. Cells were analyzed on a Zeiss LSM510 META confocal microscope, using a 63x PlanApochromat objective. For electron microscopy analysis, proliferating HeLa cells were transfected with GFP-tagged survivin 2α construct for 12 hours. The cells were aseptically sorted by FACS based on green fluorescence from GFP-survivin 2α for positive and negative populations. This was done in order to separate an enriched population that consisted of >90% GFP expressing cells. 106 cells for each condition were fixed in 2.5% gluteraldehyde for 24 hours and processed for EM. For cell analysis, 10 to 12 fields containing 8–10 cells per field at a magnification of 3500× were used. At least 100 cells were counted for each experimental condition and assigned to categories of healthy or dying based on their morphological appearance, including nuclear integrity. Image collection was performed on a Hitachi H-600 transmission electron microscope equipped with a GATAN image acquisition system.
HeLa cells transfected with Flag-survivin and survivin-2α myc were collected in Cell Lysis Buffer (100 mM Tris-HCl pH8.0, 100 mM NaCl, 0.5% Triton X-100, 0.2 μM PMSF) and incubated at 4°C for 30 min. The cell lysate was clarified by centrifugation and the clarified supernatant dissolved 1:5 in Co-IP buffer (50 mM Tris-HCl pH7.5, 15 mM EGTA, 100 mM NaCl, 0.1% Triton X-100, 1x protease inhibitors cocktail, 1 mM DTT, 1 mM PMSF). The equivalent of 400 μg of lysate total protein was incubated with 2 μg of anti-Flag M2 antibody at 4°C for 1 h with constant rotation. As a control the same amount of lysate protein was incubated in the absence of antibody. Fifty microliters of agarose-conjugated protein A (Invitrogen) were added and the mixture incubated for a further hour in the same conditions. The protein-antibody-protein A complexes were pulled down by centrifugation and subjected to 3 washes with co-IP buffer. The proteins were analyzed through electrophoretic separation in a 20% SDS-PAGE, electroblotted onto nitrocellulose and immunoprobed with an antibody against myc-tag. Detection was performed using the ECL kit (Amersham). Protein standards were used for size determination.
Subcellular localization predicted by PSORTII program. Coiled-Coil domain predicted by Coils and PairCoil programs
We would like to thank M. Holloway and J. Fangusaro for general technical assistance, C. McAllister for assistance with FACS and EM and G. Otterson and S. Qualman for kindly donating cell lines. We are grateful to Dr Heithem El-Hodiri for critically reviewing this manuscript. This work was supported by the Elsa U. Pardee Foundation and by the Hope Street Kids Foundation.
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