A reporter based cellular assay for monitoring splicing efficiency

Jason Wong, William Martelly, Shalini Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


During gene expression, the vital step of pre-mRNA splicing involves accurate recognition of splice sites and efficient assembly of spliceosomal complexes to join exons and remove introns prior to cytoplasmic export of the mature mRNA. Splicing efficiency can be altered by the presence of mutations at splice sites, the influence of trans-acting splicing factors, or the activity of therapeutics. Here, we describe the protocol for a cellular assay that can be applied for monitoring the splicing efficiency of any given exon. The assay uses an adaptable plasmid encoded 3-exon/2-intron minigene reporter, which can be expressed in mammalian cells by transient transfection. Post-transfection, total cellular RNA is isolated, and the efficiency of exon splicing in the reporter mRNA is determined by either primer extension or semi-quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). We describe how the impact of disease associated 5′ splice-site mutations can be determined by introducing them in the reporter; and how the suppression of these mutations can be achieved by co-transfection with U1 small nuclear RNA (snRNA) construct carrying compensatory mutations in its 5′ region that basepairs with the 5′-splice sites at exon-intron junctions in pre-mRNAs. Thus, the reporter can be used for the design of therapeutic U1 particles to improve recognition of mutant 5′ splice-sites. Insertion of cis-acting regulatory sites, such as splicing enhancer or silencer sequences, into the reporter can also be used to examine the role of U1 snRNP in regulation mediated by a specific alternative splicing factor. Finally, reporter expressing cells can be incubated with small molecules to determine the effect of potential therapeutics on constitutive pre-mRNA splicing or on exons carrying mutant 5′ splice sites. Overall, the reporter assay can be applied to monitor splicing efficiency in a variety of conditions to study fundamental splicing mechanisms and splicing-associated diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere63014
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number175
StatePublished - Sep 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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