Background: Altered expression of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) is a major driver of growth and metastasis of cancers. Recepteur d’origine nantais (RON) receptor is a single-pass transmembrane RTK aberrantly expressed in a number of cancers. Efforts to block deregulated RON signaling in tumors using small molecule kinase inhibitors or antibodies are complicated by the presence of unknown number/types of isoforms of RON, which, despite having similar sequences, are localized differently and mediate varied functions. The objective of this study was to identify splice variants of RON transcripts between exons 1 and 10 that code for the extracellular region.
Methods: Direct cDNA sequencing was performed for the transcript between exons 1–10 of RON by Sanger sequencing in various lung cancer cell lines.
Results: PCR amplification and bi-directional sequencing of cDNA for section between exons 1 and 10 from lung cancer cell lines revealed the presence of several splice variants of RON transcripts; the variants were formed by skipping of exons 2, 2–3, 5–6, 6 and 8–9. Each of these transcript variants were found in one or more cell lines. While the variants formed by skipping of exons 2, 2–3 and 5–6 resulted in loss of 63, 106 and 109 amino acids, respectively, and didn’t cause reading-frameshift, the transcripts formed by skipping of exons 6 and 8–9 caused reading-frameshift. Splice variant lacking exons 8–9 was found in 13 out of 23 cell lines tested.
Conclusion: Lung cancer cell lines contain several splice variants of RON which involve skipping of exons coding for extracellular region. Some of the splicing changes result in reading-frameshift and the N-terminally truncated isoforms are expected to be secreted out. The ubiquitous nature of alternative splicing events in RON suggests the need for isoform specific approaches to functional analysis and therapeutic targeting of RON.