An in-silico human cell model reveals the influence of spatial organization on RNA splicing


Spatial organization is a characteristic of all cells, achieved in eukaryotic cells by utilizing both membrane-bound and membrane-less organelles. One of the key processes in eukaryotes is RNA splicing, which readies mRNA for translation. This complex and highly dynamical chemical process involves assembly and disassembly of many molecules in multiple cellular compartments and their transport among compartments. Our goal is to model the effect of spatial organization of membrane-less organelles (specifically nuclear speckles) and of organelle heterogeneity on splicing particle biogenesis in mammalian cells. Based on multiple sources of complementary experimental data, we constructed a spatial model of a HeLa cell to capture intracellular crowding effects. We then developed chemical reaction networks to describe the formation of RNA splicing machinery complexes and splicing processes within nuclear speckles (specific type of non-membrane-bound organelles). We incorporated these networks into our spatially-resolved human cell model and performed stochastic simulations for up to 15 minutes of biological time, the longest thus far for a eukaryotic cell. We find that an increase (decrease) in the number of nuclear pore complexes increases (decreases) the number of assembled splicing particles; and that compartmentalization is critical for the yield of correctly-assembled particles. We also show that a slight increase of splicing particle localization into nuclear speckles leads to a disproportionate enhancement of mRNA splicing and a reduction in the noise of generated mRNA. Our model also predicts that the distance between genes and speckles has a considerable effect on the mRNA production rate, with genes located closer to speckles producing mRNA at higher levels, emphasizing the importance of genome organization around speckles. The HeLa cell model, including organelles and sub-compartments, provides a flexible foundation to study other cellular processes that are strongly modulated by spatiotemporal heterogeneity.

View full publication here.