Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Charles E. Chalfant

Second Advisor

Margaret A. Park

Third Advisor

Brian W. Wattenberg

Fourth Advisor

Robert M. Tombes

Fifth Advisor

Mikhail G. Dozmorov

Sixth Advisor

Yue Sun


Our laboratory delineated a role for alternative pre-mRNA splicing (AS) in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). We found the translational regulator cytosolic polyadenylation element binding protein 2 (CPEB2) which has two isoforms, CPEB2A and CPEB2B, is alternatively spliced during acquisition of anoikis resistance (AnR) and metastasis. The splicing event which determines the CPEB2 isoform is via inclusion/ exclusion of exon four in the mature mRNA transcript. The loss of CPEB2A with a concomitant increase in CPEB2B is required for TNBC cells to metastasize in vivo. We examined RNAseq profiles of TNBC cells which had CPEB2 isoforms specifically downregulated to examine the mechanism by which CPEB2 isoforms mediate opposing effects on cancer-related phenotypes. Downregulation of the CPEB2B isoform inhibited pathways driving the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and hypoxic response, whereas downregulation of the CPEB2A isoform did not have this effect. Specifically, CPEB2B functioned as a translational activator of TWIST1 and HIF1a. Functional studies showed that specific downregulation of either HIF1α or TWIST1 inhibited the ability of CPEB2B to induce AnR and drive metastasis. The mechanism governing inclusion/ exclusion of exon 4 was determined to be serine/ arginine-rich splicing factor 3 (SRSF3). Binding of SRSF3 to a consensus sequence within CPEB2 exon 4 promoted its inclusion in the mature mRNA, and mutation of this sequence abolished association of SRSF3 with exon 4. SRSF3 expression was upregulated in TNBC cells upon acquisition of AnR correlating with a reduction in the CPEB2A/B ratio. Importantly, downregulation of SRSF3 by siRNA in these cells induced the exclusion of exon 4. Downregulation of SRSF3 also reversed the CPEB2A/B ratio in a wild-type CPEB2 exon 4 minigene construct, but not a mutant CPEB2 minigene with the SRSF3 RNA cis-element ablated. Physiologic studies demonstrated SRSF3 downregulation ablated AnR in TNBC cells, and was “rescued” by ectopic expression of CPEB2B. Importantly, biostatistical analysis of The Cancer Genome Atlas database showed a positive relationship between alterations in SRSF3 expression and lower overall survival in TNBC. Overall, this study demonstrates that SRSF3 modulates CPEB2 AS to induce the expression of the CPEB2B isoform that drives TNBC phenotypes correlating with aggressive human breast cancer.


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Available for download on Sunday, December 03, 2023