Glucocorticoids mediate transcriptome-wide alternative polyadenylation: Potential mechanistic and clinical implications

Thanh Thanh L. Nguyen, Duan Liu, Huanyao Gao, Zhenqing Ye, Jeong Heon Lee, Lixuan Wei, Jia Yu, Lingxin Zhang, Liewei Wang, Tamas Ordog, Richard M. Weinshilboum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alternative polyadenylation (APA) is a common genetic regulatory mechanism that generates distinct 3′ ends for RNA transcripts. Changes in APA have been associated with multiple biological processes and disease phenotypes. However, the role of hormones and their drug analogs in APA remains largely unknown. In this study, we investigated transcriptome-wide the impact of glucocorticoids on APA in 30 human B-lymphoblastoid cell lines. We found that glucocorticoids could regulate APA for a subset of genes, possibly by changing the expression of 142 RNA-binding proteins, some with known APA-regulating properties. Interestingly, genes with glucocorticoid-mediated APA were enriched in viral translation-related pathways, while genes with glucocorticoid-mediated expression were enriched in interferon and interleukin pathways, suggesting that glucocorticoid-mediated APA might result in functional consequences distinct from gene expression. For example, glucocorticoids, a pharmacotherapy for severe COVID-19, were found to change the APA but not the expression of LY6E, an important antiviral inhibitor in coronavirus diseases. Glucocorticoid-mediated APA was also cell-type-specific, suggesting an action of glucocorticoids that may be unique to immune regulation. We also observed evidence for genotype-dependent glucocorticoid-mediated APA (referred to as pharmacogenomic-alterative polyadenylation quantitative trait loci), providing potential functional mechanisms for a series of common genetic variants that had previously been associated with immune disorders, but without a clear mechanism. In summary, this study reports a series of observations regarding the impact of glucocorticoids on APA, raising the possibility that this mechanism might have implications for both disease pathophysiology and drug therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2758-2771
Number of pages14
JournalClinical and translational science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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