Intron retention (IR) is now recognized as a dominant splicing event during motor neuron (MN) development, however the role and regulation of intron-retaining transcripts (IRTs) localized to the cytoplasm remain particularly understudied. By resolving the spatiotemporal dynamics of IR underlying distinct stages of MN lineage restriction, we identify a cytoplasmic group of IRTs that is not associated with reduced expression of their own genes but instead with an upregulation of predicted target genes of specific miRNAs, the motifs of which are enriched within the intronic sequences of this group. Next, we show that ALS-causing VCP mutations lead to a selective increase in IR of this particular class of introns. This in turn temporally coincides with an increase in the expression level of predicted target genes of these miRNAs, providing a potential mechanistic insight into ALS pathogenesis. Altogether, we propose a novel role for the cytoplasmic intronic sequences in regulating miRNA activity through miRNA sequestration, which potentially contributes to ALS pathogenesis.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience