Aberrant alternative splicing (AS) events have been identified in a variety of cancers. Although somatic mutations of splicing factors and dysregulation of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) have been linked to AS and tumor malignancy, it remains unclear how upstream mechanisms contribute to cancer development via alternative gene splicing. In this issue of the JCI, Wenrui Zhang and colleagues identified the role of asparagine endopeptidase (AEP), an intracellular cysteine endopeptidase, in promoting solid tumor–associated RNA splicing. The authors demonstrated that tumor environmental factors such as oxygen and nutrient deprivation induce the activity of AEP in a HIF1A-dependent manner. The activated AEP, in turn, cleaves an RNA helicase DDX3X to promote its nuclear retention. The authors further showed that this DDX3X nuclear fraction engages with splicing machinery to induce AS events in several cancer cells. These findings suggest that targeting an AEP-dependent aberrant RNA splicing cascade may facilitate therapeutics for solid tumors.
Yadong Xie, Haohao Zhang, Xinyang Song
AEP cleaves DDX3X to drive tumor-promoting AS events.