Alternative splicing plays a key role in posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression, allowing a single gene to encode multiple protein isoforms. As such, alternative splicing amplifies the coding capacity of the genome enormously, generates protein diversity, and alters protein function. More than 90% of human genes undergo alternative splicing, and alternative splicing is especially prevalent in the nervous and immune systems, tissues where cells need to react swiftly and adapt to changes in the environment through carefully regulated mechanisms of cell differentiation, migration, targeting, and activation. Given its prevalence and complexity, this highly regulated mode of gene expression is prone to be affected by disease. In the following review, we look at how alternative splicing of signaling molecules—cytokines and their receptors—changes in different pathological conditions, from chronic inflammation to neurologic disorders, providing means of functional interaction between the immune and neuroendocrine systems. Switches in alternative splicing patterns can be very dynamic and can produce signaling molecules with distinct or antagonistic functions and localization to different subcellular compartments. This newly discovered link expands our understanding of the biology of immune and neuroendocrine cells, and has the potential to open new windows of opportunity for treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited