Long tract of untranslated CAG repeats is deleterious in transgenic mice.
ABSTRACT: The most frequent trinucleotide repeat found in human disorders is the CAG sequence. Expansion of CAG repeats is mostly found in coding regions and is thought to cause diseases through a protein mechanism. Recently, expanded CAG repeats were shown to induce toxicity at the RNA level in Drosophila and C. elegans. These findings raise the possibility that CAG repeats may trigger RNA-mediated pathogenesis in mammals. Here, we demonstrate that transgenic mice expressing EGFP transcripts with long CAG repeats in the 3' untranslated region develop pathogenic features. Expression of the transgene was directed to the muscle in order to compare the resulting phenotype to that caused by the CUG expansion, as occurs in myotonic dystrophy. Transgenic mice expressing 200, but not those expressing 0 or 23 CAG repeats, showed alterations in muscle morphology, histochemistry and electrophysiology, as well as abnormal behavioral phenotypes. Expression of the expanded CAG repeats in testes resulted in reduced fertility due to defective sperm motility. The production of EGFP protein was significantly reduced by the 200 CAG repeats, and no polyglutamine-containing product was detected, which argues against a protein mechanism. Moreover, nuclear RNA foci were detected for the long CAG repeats. These data support the notion that expanded CAG repeat RNA can cause deleterious effects in mammals. They also suggest the possible involvement of an RNA mechanism in human diseases with long CAG repeats.
Project description:Polyglutamine diseases are neurodegenerative diseases that occur due to the expansion of CAG repeat regions in coding sequences of genes. Previously, we have shown the formation of large protein aggregates along with activation of the interferon pathway leading to apoptosis in a cellular model of SCA17. Here, we corroborate our previous results in a tetracycline-inducible model of SCA17. Interferon gamma and lambda were upregulated in 59Q-TBP expressing cells as compared to 16Q-TBP expressing cells. Besides interferon-stimulated genes, the SCA17 model and Huntington's mice brain samples showed upregulation of RNA sensors. However, in this improved model interferon pathway activation and apoptosis preceded the formation of large polyglutamine aggregates, suggesting a role for CAG repeat RNA or soluble protein aggregates. A polyglutamine minus mutant of TBP, expressing polyCAG mRNA, was created by site directed mutagenesis of 10 potential start codons. Neither this long CAG embedded mRNA nor short polyCAG RNA could induce interferon pathway genes or cause apoptosis. polyQ-TBP induced the expression of canonical RNA sensors but the downstream transcription factor, IRF3, showed a muted response. We found that expanded CAG repeat RNA is not sufficient to account for the neuronal apoptosis. Neuronal cells sense expanded CAG repeats embedded in messenger RNAs of protein-coding genes. However, polyglutamine containing protein is responsible for the interferon-mediated neuroinflammation and cell death seen in polyglutamine disease. Thus, we delineate the inflammatory role of CAG repeats in the mRNA from the resulting polyglutamine tract in the protein. Embedded in messenger RNAs of protein-coding regions, the cell senses CAG repeat expansion and induces the expression of RNA sensors and interferon-stimulated genes.
Project description:Mutant transcripts containing expanded CUG repeats in the untranslated region are a pathogenic factor in myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1). The mutant RNA sequesters the muscleblind-like 1 (MBNL1) splicing factor and causes misregulation of the alternative splicing of multiple genes that are linked to clinical symptoms of the disease. In this study, we show that either long untranslated CAG repeat RNA or short synthetic CAG repeats induce splicing aberrations typical of DM1. Alternative splicing defects are also caused by translated CAG repeats in normal cells transfected with a mutant ATXN3 gene construct and in cells derived from spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 and Huntington's disease patients. Splicing misregulation is unlikely to be caused by traces of antisense transcripts with CUG repeats, and the possible trigger of this misregulation may be sequestration of the MBNL1 protein with nuclear RNA inclusions containing expanded CAG repeat transcripts. We propose that alternative splicing misregulation by mutant CAG repeats may contribute to the pathological features of polyglutamine disorders.
Project description:More than 20 human neurological and neurodegenerative diseases are caused by simple DNA repeat expansions; among these, non-coding CTG repeat expansions are the basis of myotonic dystrophy (DM1). Recent work, however, has also revealed that many human genes have anti-sense transcripts, raising the possibility that human trinucleotide expansion diseases may be comprised of pathogenic activities due both to a sense expanded-repeat transcript and to an anti-sense expanded-repeat transcript. We established a Drosophila model for DM1 and tested the role of interactions between expanded CTG transcripts and expanded CAG repeat transcripts. These studies revealed dramatically enhanced toxicity in flies co-expressing CTG with CAG expanded repeats. Expression of the two transcripts led to novel pathogenesis with the generation of dcr-2 and ago2-dependent 21-nt triplet repeat-derived siRNAs. These small RNAs targeted the expression of CAG-containing genes, such as Ataxin-2 and TATA binding protein (TBP), which bear long CAG repeats in both fly and man. These findings indicate that the generation of triplet repeat-derived siRNAs may dramatically enhance toxicity in human repeat expansion diseases in which anti-sense transcription occurs.
Project description:More than 12 neurogenetic disorders are caused by unstable expansions of (CTG)•(CAG) repeats. The expanded repeats are unstable in germline and somatic cells, with potential consequences for disease severity. Previous studies have shown that contractions of (CAG)(95) are more frequent when the repeat tract is transcribed. Here we determined whether transcription can promote repeat expansion, using (CTG)•(CAG) repeat tracts in the size range that is typical for myotonic dystrophy type 1. We derived normal human fibroblasts having single-copy genomic integrations of 800 CTG repeats. The repeat tract showed modest instability when it was not transcribed, yielding an estimated mutation rate of 0.28% per generation. Instability was enhanced several-fold by transcription in the forward or reverse transcription, and 30-fold by bidirectional transcription, yielding many expansions and contractions of more than 200 repeats. These results suggest that convergent bidirectional transcription, which has been reported at several disease loci, could contribute to somatic instability of highly expanded (CTG)•(CAG) repeats.
Project description:Trinucleotide repeat expansion disorders (TRED) are caused by genomic expansions of trinucleotide repeats, such as CTG and CAG. These expanded repeats are unstable in germline and somatic cells, with potential consequences for disease severity. Previous studies have demonstrated the involvement of DNA repair proteins in repeat instability, although the key factors affecting large repeat expansion and contraction are unclear. Here we investigated these factors in a human cell model harboring 800 CTG•CAG repeats by individually knocking down various DNA repair proteins using short interfering RNA. Knockdown of MSH2 and MSH3, which form the MutS? heterodimer and function in mismatch repair, suppressed large repeat expansions, whereas knockdown of MSH6, which forms the MutS? heterodimer with MSH2, promoted large expansions exceeding 200 repeats by compensatory increases in MSH3 and the MutS? complex. Knockdown of topoisomerase 1 (TOP1) and TDP1, which are involved in single-strand break repair, enhanced large repeat contractions. Furthermore, knockdown of senataxin, an RNA/DNA helicase which affects DNA:RNA hybrid formation and transcription-coupled nucleotide excision repair, exacerbated repeat instability in both directions. These results indicate that DNA repair factors, such as MutS? play important roles in large repeat expansion and contraction, and can be an excellent therapeutic target for TRED.
Project description:Amplification of a CAG trinucleotide motif (CTG18.1) within the TCF4 gene has been strongly associated with Fuchs Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy (FECD). Nevertheless, a small minority of clinically unaffected elderly patients who have expanded CTG18.1 sequences have been identified. To test the hypothesis that the CAG expansions in these patients are protected from FECD because they have interruptions within the CAG repeats, we utilized a combination of an amplification-free, long-read sequencing method and a new target-enrichment sequence analysis tool developed by Pacific Biosciences to interrogate the sequence structure of expanded repeats. The sequencing was successful in identifying a previously described interruption within an unexpanded allele and provided sequence data on expanded alleles greater than 2000 bases in length. The data revealed considerable heterogeneity in the size distribution of expanded repeats within each patient. Detailed analysis of the long sequence reads did not reveal any instances of interruptions to the expanded CAG repeats, but did reveal novel variants within the AGG repeats that flank the CAG repeats in two of the five samples from clinically unaffected patients with expansions. This first examination of the sequence structure of CAG repeats in CTG18.1 suggests that factors other than interruptions to the repeat structure account for the absence of disease in some elderly patients with repeat expansions in the TCF4 gene.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by expansion of a CTG repeat in the gene DMPK. The expansion is highly unstable in somatic cells, a feature that may contribute to disease progression. The RNA expressed from the mutant allele exerts a toxic gain of function, due to the presence of an expanded CUG repeat (CUG(exp)). This RNA dominant mechanism is amenable to therapeutic intervention with antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs). For example, CAG-repeat ASOs that bind CUG(exp) RNA are beneficial in DM1 models by altering the protein interactions or metabolism of the toxic RNA. Because CUG(exp) RNA has been shown to aggravate instability of expanded CTG repeats, we studied whether CAG-repeat ASOs may also affect this aspect of DM1. In human cells the instability of (CTG)(800) was suppressed by addition of CAG-repeat ASOs to the culture media. In mice that carry a DMPK transgene the somatic instability of (CTG)(800) was suppressed by direct injection of CAG-repeat ASOs into muscle tissue. These results raise the possibility that early intervention with ASOs to reduce RNA or protein toxicity may have the additional benefit of stabilizing CTG:CAG repeats at subpathogenic lengths.
Project description:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) share phenotypic and pathologic overlap. Recently, an expansion of GGGGCC repeats in the first intron of C9orf72 was found to be a common cause of both illnesses; however, the molecular pathogenesis of this expanded repeat is unknown. Here we developed both Drosophila and mammalian models of this expanded hexanucleotide repeat and showed that expression of the expanded GGGGCC repeat RNA (rGGGGCC) is sufficient to cause neurodegeneration. We further identified Pur ? as the RNA-binding protein of rGGGGCC repeats and discovered that Pur ? and rGGGGCC repeats interact in vitro and in vivo in a sequence-specific fashion that is conserved between mammals and Drosophila. Furthermore, overexpression of Pur ? in mouse neuronal cells and Drosophila mitigates rGGGGCC repeat-mediated neurodegeneration, and Pur ? forms inclusions in the fly eye expressing expanded rGGGGCC repeats, as well as in cerebellum of human carriers of expanded GGGGCC repeats. These data suggest that expanded rGGGGCC repeats could sequester specific RNA-binding protein from their normal functions, ultimately leading to cell death. Taken together, these findings suggest that the expanded rGGGGCC repeats could cause neurodegeneration, and that Pur ? may play a role in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia.
Project description:Fork stabilization at DNA impediments is key to maintaining replication fork integrity and preventing chromosome breaks. Mrc1 and Tof1 are two known stabilizers that travel with the replication fork. In addition to a structural role, Mrc1 has a DNA damage checkpoint function. Using a yeast model system, we analyzed the role of Mrc1 and Tof1 at expanded CAG repeats of medium and long lengths, which are known to stall replication forks and cause trinucleotide expansion diseases such as Huntington's disease and myotonic dystrophy. We demonstrate that the fork stabilizer but not the checkpoint activation function of Mrc1 is key for preventing DNA breakage and death of cells containing expanded CAG tracts. In contrast, both Mrc1 functions are important in preventing repeat length instability. Mrc1 has a general fork protector role that is evident at forks traversing both repetitive and non-repetitive DNA, though it becomes crucial at long CAG repeat lengths. In contrast, the role of Tof1 in preventing fork breakage is specific to long CAG tracts of 85 or more repeats. Our results indicate that long CAG repeats have a particular need for Tof1 and highlight the importance of fork stabilizers in maintaining fork integrity during replication of structure-forming repeats.
Project description:The spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA) are a genetically and clinically heterogeneous group of diseases, characterized by dominant inheritance, progressive cerebellar ataxia and diverse extracerebellar symptoms. A subgroup of the ataxias is caused by unstable CAG-repeat expansions in their respective genes leading to pathogenic expansions of polyglutamine stretches in the encoded proteins. In general, unstable CAG repeats have an uninterrupted CAG repeat, whereas stable CAG repeats are either short or interrupted by CAA codons, which - like CAG codons - code for glutamine. Here we report on an infantile SCA2 patient who, due to germ-line CAG repeat instability in her father, inherited an extremely expanded CAG repeat in the SCA2 locus. Surprisingly, the expanded allele of the father was an interrupted CAG repeat sequence. Furthermore, analyses of single spermatozoa showed a high frequency of paternal germ-line repeat sequence instability of the expanded SCA2 locus.