Alternative RNA splicing in tumour heterogeneity, plasticity and therapy

Sebastian Öther-gee Pohl, Kevin B. Myant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alternative splicing is a process by which a single gene is able to encode multiple different protein isoforms. It is regulated by the inclusion or exclusion of introns and exons that are joined in different patterns prior to protein translation, thus enabling transcriptomic and proteomic diversity. It is now widely accepted that alternative splicing is dysregulated across nearly all cancer types. This widespread dysregulation means that nearly all cellular processes are affected – these include processes synonymous with the hallmarks of cancer – evasion of apoptosis, tissue invasion and metastasis, altered cellular metabolism, genome instability and drug resistance. Emerging evidence indicates that the dysregulation of alternative splicing also promotes a permissive environment for increased tumour heterogeneity and cellular plasticity. These are fundamental regulators of a patient's response to therapy. In this Review, we introduce the mechanisms of alternative splicing and the role of aberrant splicing in cancer, with particular focus on newfound evidence of alternative splicing promoting tumour heterogeneity, cellular plasticity and altered metabolism. We discuss recent in vivo models generated to study alternative splicing and the importance of these for understanding complex tumourigenic processes. Finally, we review the effects of alternative splicing on immune evasion, cell death and genome instability, and how targeting these might enhance therapeutic efficacy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDisease Models and Mechanisms
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2022


  • Alternative Splicing/genetics
  • Carcinogenesis/genetics
  • Humans
  • Introns
  • Neoplasms/genetics
  • Proteomics
  • RNA Splicing


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