Nuclear Degradation of Wilms Tumor 1-associating Protein and Survivin Splice Variant Switching Underlie IGF-1-mediated Survival

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Journal of Biological Chemistry





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WTAP (Wilms tumor 1-associating protein) is a recently identified nuclear protein that is essential for mouse embryo development. The Drosophila homolog of WTAP, Fl(2)d, regulates pre-mRNA splicing; however, the role of WTAP in mammalian cells is uncertain. To elucidate a context for WTAP action, we screened growth and survival factors for their effects on WTAP expression in vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs), a cell type previously found to express WTAP dynamically. This revealed that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) uniquely reduced WTAP abundance. This decline in WTAP proved to be necessary for IGF-1 to confer its antiapoptotic properties, which were blocked by transducing the WTAP gene into SMCs. WTAP down-regulation by IGF-1 was mediated by an IGF-1 receptor-phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-Akt signaling axis that directed WTAP degradation via a nuclear 26 S proteasome. Moreover, by promoting the degradation of WTAP, IGF-1 shifted the pre-mRNA splicing program for the survival factor, survivin, to reduce expression of survivin-2B, which is proapoptotic, and increase expression of survivin, which is antiapoptotic. Knockdown of survivin-2B rescued the ability of IGF-1 to promote survival when WTAP was overexpressed. These data uncover a novel regulatory cascade for human SMC survival based on adjusting the nuclear abundance of WTAP to define the splice variant balance among survivin isoforms.