UBA1-CDK16: A Sex-Specific Chimeric RNA and Its Role in Immune Sexual Dimorphism

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0009-0003-1739-8895
Shi, Xinrui, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics - School of Medicine, University of Virginia
Li, Hui, MD-PATH Experimental Pathology, University of Virginia

RNA processing mechanisms, such as alternative splicing and RNA editing, have been recognized as critical means to expand the transcriptome. Chimeric RNAs formed by intergenic splicing provide another potential layer of RNA diversification. To uncover the significance of chimeric RNAs in sexual dimorphism, I aimed to discover the sex-specific chimeric RNAs. By analyzing a large set of RNA-Seq data from healthy individuals and validating results in over 1,200 blood samples, I identified UBA1-CDK16, a female-specific chimeric transcript. Intriguingly, both parental genes, are expressed in males and females. Mechanistically, UBA1-CDK16 is produced by cis-splicing between the two adjacent X-linked genes, originating from the inactive X chromosome. A female-specific chromatin loop, formed between the junction sites, facilitates the intergenic splicing of its readthrough precursor. This unique chimeric transcript exhibits evolutionary conservation, evolving to be female-specific from non-human primates to humans. Furthermore, my investigation reveals that UBA1-CDK16 is enriched in the myeloid lineage and plays a regulatory role in myeloid differentiation. Notably, female COVID-19 patients who tested negative for this chimeric transcript displayed higher counts of neutrophils, highlighting its potential role in disease pathogenesis. These findings support the notion that chimeric RNAs represent a new repertoire of transcripts that can be regulated independently from the parental genes, and a new class of RNA variance with potential implications in sexual dimorphism and immune responses.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Chimeric RNA, X-chromosome inactivation, Myeloid differentiation, Sex-biased immunity, COVID-19
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