Neuronal differentiation induces SNORD115 expression and is accompanied by post-transcriptional changes of serotonin receptor 2c mRNA

The serotonin neurotransmitter system is widespread in the brain and implicated in modulation of neuronal responses to other neurotransmitters. Among 14 serotonin receptor subtypes, 5-HT2cR plays a pivotal role in controlling neuronal network excitability. Serotonergic activity conveyed through receptor 5-HT2cR is regulated post-transcriptionally via two mechanisms, alternative splicing and A-to-I RNA editing. Brain-specific small nucleolar RNA SNORD115 harbours a phylogenetically conserved 18-nucleotide antisense element with perfect complementarity to the region of 5ht2c primary transcript that undergoes post-transcriptional changes. Previous 5ht2c minigene studies have implicated SNORD115 in fine-tuning of both post-transcriptional events. We monitored post-transcriptional changes of endogenous 5ht2ctranscripts during neuronal differentiation. Both SNORD115 and 5ht2c were upregulated upon neuronal commitment. We detected increased 5ht2c alternative exon Vb inclusion already at the stage of neuronal progenitors, and more extensive A-to-I editing of non-targeted sites A and B compared to adjacent adenosines at sites E, C and D throughout differentiation. As the extent of editing is known to positively correlate with exon Vb usage while it reduces receptor functionality, our data support the model where SNORD115 directly promotes alternative exon inclusion without the requirement for conversion of key adenosines to inosines, thereby favouring production of full-length receptor isoforms with higher potency.