Assessing the functional characteristics of synonymous and nonsynonymous mutation candidates by use of large DNA constructs.
Eeds AM., Mortlock D., Wade-Martins R., Summar ML.
As we identify more and more genetic changes, either through mutation studies or population screens, we need powerful tools to study their potential molecular effects. With these tools, we can begin to understand the contributions of genetic variations to the wide range of human phenotypes. We used our catalogue of molecular changes in patients with carbamyl phosphate synthetase I (CPSI) deficiency to develop such a system for use in eukaryotic cells. We developed the tools and methods for rapidly modifying bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) for eukaryotic episomal replication, marker expression, and selection and then applied this protocol to a BAC containing the entire CPSI gene. Although this CPSI BAC construct was suitable for studying nonsynonymous mutations, potential splicing defects, and promoter variations, our focus was on studying potential splicing and RNA-processing defects to validate this system. In this article, we describe the construction of this system and subsequently examine the mechanism of four putative splicing mutations in patients deficient in CPSI. Using this model, we also demonstrate the reversible role of nonsense-mediated decay in all four mutations, using small interfering RNA knockdown of hUPF2. Furthermore, we were able to locate cryptic splicing sites for the two intronic mutations. This BAC-based system permits expression studies in the absence of patient RNA or tissues with relevant gene expression and provides experimental flexibility not available in genomic DNA or plasmid constructs. Our splicing and RNA degradation data demonstrate the advantages of using whole-gene constructs to study the effects of sequence variation on gene expression and function.