In humans, the majority of all protein-coding transcripts contain introns that are removed by mRNA splicing carried out by spliceosomes. Mutations in the spliceosome machinery have recently been identified using whole-exome/genome technologies in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and in other hematological disorders. Alterations in splicing factor 3 subunit b1 (SF3b1) were the first spliceosomal mutations described, immediately followed by identification of other splicing factor mutations, including U2 small nuclear RNA auxillary factor 1 (U2AF1) and serine arginine-rich splicing factor 2 (SRSF2). SF3b1/U2AF1/SRSF2 mutations occur at varying frequencies in different disease subtypes, each contributing to differences in survival outcomes. However, the exact functional consequences of these spliceosomal mutations in the pathogenesis of MDS and other hematological malignancies remain largely unknown and subject to intense investigation. For SF3b1, a gain of function mutation may offer the promise of new targeted therapies for diseases that carry this molecular abnormality that can potentially lead to cure. This review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the emerging role of the spliceosome machinery in the biology of MDS/hematological disorders with an emphasis on the functional consequences of mutations, their clinical significance, and perspectives on how they may influence our understanding and management of diseases affected by these mutations.Leukemia advance online publication, 8 June 2012; doi:10.1038/leu.2012.130.
- myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)