Background: Carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1), a cell adhesion molecule expressed in a variety of cell types is a putative tumor suppressor gene. Alternative splicing of CEACAM1 generates 11 different splice variants, which include 1-4 ectodomains with either short or long cytoplasmic domain generated by the exclusion (CEACAM1-S) or inclusion (CEACAM1-L) of exon 7. Studies in rodents indicate that optimal ratios of CEACAM1 splice variants are required to inhibit colonic tumor cell growth. Results: We show that CEACAM1 is expressed in a tissue specific manner with significant differences in the ratios of its short (CEACAM1-S) and long (CEACAM1-L) cytoplasmic domain splice variants. Importantly, we find dramatic differences between the ratios of S:L isoforms in normal breast tissues versus breast cancer specimens, suggesting that altered splicing of CEACAM1 may play an important role in tumorogenesis. Furthermore, we have identified two regulatory cis-acting elements required for the alternative splicing of CEACAM1. Replacement of these regulatory elements by human β-globin exon sequences resulted in exon 7-skipped mRNA as the predominant product. Interestingly, while insertion of exon 7 in a β-globin reporter gene resulted in its skipping, exon 7 along with the flanking intron sequences recapitulated the alternative splicing of CEACAM1. Conclusion: Our results indicate that a network of regulatory elements control the alternative splicing of CEACAM1. These findings may have important implications in therapeutic modalities of CEACAM1 linked human diseases.
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