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CDK13 Mutations Drive Melanoma via Accumulation of Prematurely Terminated Transcripts

By Megan L Insco, Brian J. Abraham, Sara J Dubbury, Sofia Dust, Constance Wu, Kevin Y. Chen, David Liu, Calvin G. Ludwig, Stanislav Bellaousov, Tania Fabo, Telmo Henriques, Karen Adelman, Matthias Geyer, Phillip A. Sharp, Richard A. Young, Paul L Boutz, Leonard I Zon

Posted 05 Nov 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/824193

Transcriptional Cyclin Dependent Kinases modulate RNA Polymerase II function to impact gene expression. Here, we show that CDK13 is mutated in 4% of patient melanomas and mutation or downregulation is associated with poor overall survival. Mutant CDK13 lacks kinase activity and overexpression in zebrafish leads to accelerated melanoma. CDK13 mutant fish and human melanomas accumulate prematurely terminated RNAs that are translated into truncated proteins. CDK13 binds to and regulates the phosphorylation of ZC3H14, a member of the PolyA eXosome Targeting (PAXT) RNA degradation complex. ZC3H14 phosphorylation recruits the PAXT complex to degrade prematurely terminated polyadenylated transcripts in the nucleus. In the presence of mutant CDK13, ZC3H14 phosphorylation is compromised and consequently fails to recruit the PAXT complex, leading to truncated transcript stabilization. This work establishes a role for CDK13 and the PAXT nuclear RNA degradation complex in cancer and has prognostic significance for melanoma patients with mutated or downregulated CDK13.

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