Congenital end-plate acetylcholinesterase (AChE) deficiency (CEAD), the cause of a disabling myasthenic syndrome, arises from defects in the COLQ gene, which encodes the AChE triple-helical collagenlike-tail subunit that anchors catalytic subunits of AChE to the synaptic basal lamina. Here we describe a patient with CEAD with a nonsense mutation (R315X) and a splice- donor-site mutation at position +3 of intron 16 (IVS16+3A→G) of COLQ. Because both A and G are consensus nucleotides at the +3 position of splice- donor sites, we constructed a minigene that spans exons 15-17 and harbors IVS16+3A→G for expression in COS cells. We found that the mutation causes skipping of exon 16. The mutant splice-donor site of intron 16 harbors five discordant nucleotides (at -3, -2, +3, +4, and +6) that do not base-pair with U1 small-nuclear RNA (snRNA), the molecule responsible for splice-donor-site recognition. Versions of the minigene harboring, at either +4 or +6, nucleotides complementary to U1 snRNA restore normal splicing. Analysis of 1,801 native splice-donor sites reveals that presence of a G nucleotide at +3 is associated with preferential usage, at positions +4 to +6, of nucleotides concordant to U1 snRNA. Analysis of 11 disease-associated IVS+3A→G mutations indicates that, on average, two of three nucleotides at positions +4 to +6 fail to base-pair, and that the nucleotide at +4 never base-pairs, with U1 snRNA. We conclude that, with G at +3, normal splicing generally depends on the concordance that residues at +4 to +6 have with U1 snRNA, but other cis- acting elements may also be important in assuring the fidelity of splicing.
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