Dominant lethal pathologies in male mice engineered to contain an X-linked DUX4 transgene.
ABSTRACT: Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is an enigmatic disease associated with epigenetic alterations in the subtelomeric heterochromatin of the D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat. Each repeat unit encodes DUX4, a gene that is normally silent in most tissues. Besides muscular loss, most patients suffer retinal vascular telangiectasias. To generate an animal model, we introduced a doxycycline-inducible transgene encoding DUX4 and 3' genomic DNA into a euchromatic region of the mouse X chromosome. Without induction, DUX4 RNA was expressed at low levels in many tissues and animals displayed a variety of unexpected dominant leaky phenotypes, including male-specific lethality. Remarkably, rare live-born males expressed DUX4 RNA in the retina and presented a retinal vascular telangiectasia. By using doxycycline to induce DUX4 expression in satellite cells, we observed impaired myogenesis in vitro and in vivo. This mouse model, which shows pathologies due to FSHD-related D4Z4 sequences, is likely to be useful for testing anti-DUX4 therapies in FSHD.
Project description:Autosomal dominant facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) has an unusual pathogenic mechanism. FSHD is caused by deletion of a subset of D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat units in the subtelomere of chromosome 4q. Recent studies provide compelling evidence that a retrotransposed gene in the D4Z4 repeat, DUX4, is expressed in the human germline and then epigenetically silenced in somatic tissues. In FSHD, the combination of inefficient chromatin silencing of the D4Z4 repeat and polymorphisms on the FSHD-permissive alleles that stabilize the DUX4 mRNAs emanating from the repeat result in inappropriate DUX4 protein expression in muscle cells. FSHD is thereby the first example of a human disease caused by the inefficient repression of a retrogene in a macrosatellite repeat array.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is one of the most prevalent myopathies, affecting males and females of all ages. Both forms of the disease are linked by epigenetic derepression of the D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat array at chromosome 4q35, leading to aberrant expression of D4Z4-encoded RNAs in skeletal muscle. Production of full-length DUX4 (DUX4-fl) mRNA from the derepressed D4Z4 array results in misexpression of DUX4-FL protein and its transcriptional targets, and apoptosis, ultimately leading to accumulated muscle pathology. Returning the chromatin at the FSHD locus to its nonpathogenic, epigenetically repressed state would simultaneously affect all D4Z4 RNAs, inhibiting downstream pathogenic pathways, and is thus an attractive therapeutic strategy. Advances in CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing make it possible to target epigenetic modifiers to an endogenous disease locus, although reports to date have focused on more typical genomic regions. Here, we demonstrate that a CRISPR/dCas9 transcriptional inhibitor can be specifically targeted to the highly repetitive FSHD macrosatellite array and alter the chromatin to repress expression of DUX4-fl in primary FSHD myocytes. These results implicate the promoter and exon 1 of DUX4 as potential therapeutic targets and demonstrate the utility of CRISPR technology for correction of the epigenetic dysregulation in FSHD.
Project description:The DUX4 transcription factor is encoded by a retrogene embedded in each unit of the D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat. DUX4 is normally expressed in the cleavage-stage embryo, whereas chromatin repression prevents DUX4 expression in most somatic tissues. Failure of this repression causes facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) due to mis-expression of DUX4 in skeletal muscle. In this study, we used CRISPR/Cas9 engineered chromatin immunoprecipitation (enChIP) locus-specific proteomics to characterize D4Z4-associated proteins. These and other approaches identified the Nucleosome Remodeling Deacetylase (NuRD) and Chromatin Assembly Factor 1 (CAF-1) complexes as necessary for DUX4 repression in human skeletal muscle cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Furthermore, DUX4-induced expression of MBD3L proteins partly relieved this repression in FSHD muscle cells. Together, these findings identify NuRD and CAF-1 as mediators of DUX4 chromatin repression and suggest a mechanism for the amplification of DUX4 expression in FSHD muscle cells.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy is caused by incomplete epigenetic repression of the transcription factor DUX4 in skeletal muscle. A copy of DUX4 is located within each unit of the D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat array and its derepression in somatic cells is caused by either repeat array contraction (FSHD1) or by mutations in the chromatin repressor SMCHD1 (FSHD2). While DUX4 expression has thus far only been detected in FSHD muscle and muscle cell cultures, and increases with in vitro myogenic differentiation, the D4Z4 chromatin structure has only been studied in proliferating myoblasts or non-myogenic cells. We here show that SMCHD1 protein levels at D4Z4 decline during muscle cell differentiation and correlate with DUX4 derepression. In FSHD2, but not FSHD1, the loss of SMCHD1 repressor activity is partially compensated by increased Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2)-mediated H3K27 trimethylation at D4Z4, a situation that can be mimicked by SMCHD1 knockdown in control myotubes. In contrast, moderate overexpression of SMCHD1 results in DUX4 silencing in FSHD1 and FSHD2 myotubes demonstrating that DUX4 derepression in FSHD is reversible. Together, we show that in FSHD1 and FSHD2 the decline in SMCHD1 protein levels during muscle cell differentiation renders skeletal muscle sensitive to DUX4.
Project description:Skeletal muscle wasting in facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) results in substantial morbidity. On a disease-permissive chromosome 4qA haplotype, genomic and/or epigenetic changes at the D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat allows transcription of the DUX4 retrogene. Analysing transgenic mice carrying a human D4Z4 genomic locus from an FSHD-affected individual showed that DUX4 was transiently induced in myoblasts during skeletal muscle regeneration. Centromeric to the D4Z4 repeats is an inverted D4Z4 unit encoding DUX4c. Expression of DUX4, DUX4c and DUX4 constructs, including constitutively active, dominant-negative and truncated versions, revealed that DUX4 activates target genes to inhibit proliferation and differentiation of satellite cells, but that it also downregulates target genes to suppress myogenic differentiation. These transcriptional changes elicited by DUX4 in mouse have significant overlap with genes regulated by DUX4 in man. Comparison of DUX4 and DUX4c transcriptional perturbations revealed that DUX4 regulates genes involved in cell proliferation, whereas DUX4c regulates genes engaged in angiogenesis and muscle development, with both DUX4 and DUX4c modifing genes involved in urogenital development. Transcriptomic analysis showed that DUX4 operates through both target gene activation and repression to orchestrate a transcriptome characteristic of a less-differentiated cell state.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The most common form of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is caused by a genetic contraction of the polymorphic D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat array in the subtelomeric region of chromosome 4q. In some studies, genes centromeric to the D4Z4 repeat array have been reported to be over-expressed in FSHD, including FRG1 and FRG2, presumably due to decreased long-distance repression by the shorter array through a mechanism similar to position-effect variegation. Differential regulation of FRG1 in FSHD has never been unequivocally proven, however, FRG2 has been reproducibly shown to be induced in primary FSHD-derived muscle cells when differentiated in vitro. The molecular function of FRG2 and a possible contribution to FSHD pathology remain unclear. Recent evidence has identified the mis-expression of DUX4, located within the D4Z4 repeat unit, in skeletal muscle as the cause of FSHD. DUX4 is a double homeobox transcription factor that has been shown to be toxic when expressed in muscle cells. METHODS: We used a combination of expression analysis by qRT/PCR and RNA sequencing to determine the transcriptional activation of FRG2 and DUX4. We examined this in both differentiating control and FSHD derived muscle cell cultures or DUX4 transduced control cell lines. Next, we used ChIP-seq analysis and luciferase reporter assays to determine the potential DUX4 transactivation effect on the FRG2 promoter. RESULTS: We show that DUX4 directly activates the expression of FRG2. Increased expression of FRG2 was observed following expression of DUX4 in myoblasts and fibroblasts derived from control individuals. Moreover, we identified DUX4 binding sites at the FRG2 promoter by chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing and confirmed the direct regulation of DUX4 on the FRG2 promoter by luciferase reporter assays. Activation of luciferase was dependent on both DUX4 expression and the presence of the DUX4 DNA binding motifs in the FRG2 promoter. CONCLUSION: We show that the FSHD-specific upregulation of FRG2 is a direct consequence of the activity of DUX4 protein rather than representing a regional de-repression secondary to fewer D4Z4 repeats.
Project description:FacioScapuloHumeral muscular Dystrophy (FSHD) is one of the most prevalent hereditary myopathies and is generally characterized by progressive muscle atrophy affecting the face, scapular fixators; upper arms and distal lower legs. The FSHD locus maps to a macrosatellite D4Z4 repeat array on chromosome 4q35. Each D4Z4 unit contains a DUX4 gene; the most distal of which is flanked by a polyadenylation site on FSHD-permissive alleles, which allows for production of stable DUX4 mRNAs. In addition, an open chromatin structure is required for DUX4 gene transcription. FSHD thus results from a gain of function of the toxic DUX4 protein that normally is only expressed in germ line and stem cells. Therapeutic strategies are emerging that aim to decrease DUX4 expression or toxicity in FSHD muscle cells. We review here the heterogeneity of DUX4 mRNAs observed in muscle and stem cells; and the use of antisense oligonucleotides (AOs) targeting the DUX4 mRNA to interfere either with transcript cleavage/polyadenylation or intron splicing. We show in primary cultures that DUX4-targeted AOs suppress the atrophic FSHD myotube phenotype; but do not improve the disorganized FSHD myotube phenotype which could be caused by DUX4c over-expression. Thus; DUX4c might constitute another therapeutic target in FSHD.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy is caused by incomplete repression of the transcription factor DUX4 in skeletal muscle as a consequence of D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat contraction in chromosome 4q35 (FSHD1) or variants in genes encoding D4Z4 chromatin repressors (FSHD2). A clinical hallmark of FSHD is variability in onset and progression suggesting the presence of disease modifiers. A well-known cis modifier is the polymorphic DUX4 polyadenylation signal (PAS) that defines FSHD permissive alleles: D4Z4 chromatin relaxation on non-permissive alleles which lack the DUX4-PAS cannot cause disease in the absence of stable DUX4 mRNA. We have explored the nature and relevance of a common variant of the major FSHD haplotype 4A161, which is defined by 1.6?kb size difference of the most distal D4Z4 repeat unit. While the short variant (4A161S) has been extensively studied, we demonstrate that the long variant (4A161L) is relatively common in the European population, is capable of expressing DUX4, but that DUX4 mRNA processing differs from 4A161S. While we do not find evidence for a difference in disease severity between FSHD carriers of an 4A161S or 4A161L allele, our study does uncover biallelic DUX4 expression in FSHD2 patients. Compared to control individuals, we observed an increased frequency of FSHD2 patients homozygous for disease permissive alleles, and who are thus capable of biallelic DUX4 expression, while SMCHD1 variant carriers with only one permissive allele were significantly more often asymptomatic. This suggests that biallelic DUX4 expression lowers the threshold for disease presentation and is a modifier for disease severity in FSHD2.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is a debilitating muscle disease that currently does not have an effective cure or therapy. The abnormal reactivation of DUX4, an embryonic gene that is epigenetically silenced in somatic tissues, is causal to FSHD. Disease-specific reactivation of DUX4 has two common characteristics, the presence of a non-canonical polyadenylation sequence within exon 3 of DUX4 that stabilizes pathogenic transcripts, and the loss of repressive chromatin modifications at D4Z4, the macrosatellite repeat which encodes DUX4. We used CRISPR/Cas9 to silence DUX4 using two independent approaches. We deleted the DUX4 pathogenic polyadenylation signal, which resulted in downregulation of pathogenic DUX4-fl transcripts. In another approach, we transcriptionally repressed DUX4 by seeding heterochromatin using the dCas9-KRAB platform within exon 3. These feasibility of targeting DUX4 experiments were initially tested in a non-myogenic carcinoma cell line that we have previously characterized. Subsequently, in an immortalized patient myoblast cell line, we demonstrated that targeting DUX4 by either approach led to substantial downregulation of not only pathogenic DUX4 transcripts, but also a subset of its target genes that are known biomarkers of FSHD. These findings offer proof-of-concept of the effect of silencing the polyadenylation sequence on pathogenic DUX4 expression.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is caused by insufficient epigenetic repression of D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat where DUX4, an FSHD causing gene is embedded. There are two forms of FSHD, FSHD1 with contraction of D4Z4 repeat and FSHD2 with chromatin compaction defects mostly due to SMCHD1 mutation. Previous reports showed DUX4-induced gene expression changes as well as changes in microRNA expression in FSHD muscle cells. However, a genome wide analysis of small noncoding RNAs that might be regulated by DUX4 or by mutations in SMCHD1 has not been reported yet. Here, we identified several types of small noncoding RNAs including known microRNAs that are differentially expressed in FSHD2 muscle cells compared to control. Although fewer small RNAs were differentially expressed during muscle differentiation in FSHD2 cells compared to controls, most of the known myogenic microRNAs, such as miR1, miR133a and miR206 were induced in both FSHD2 and control muscle cells during differentiation. Our small RNA sequencing data analysis also revealed both DUX4- and SMCHD1-specific changes in FSHD2 muscle cells. Six FSHD2 microRNAs were affected by DUX4 overexpression in control myoblasts, whereas increased expression of tRNAs and 5S rRNAs in FSHD2 muscle cells was largely recapitulated in SMCHD1-depleted control myoblasts. Altogether, our studies suggest that the small noncoding RNA transcriptome changes in FSHD2 might be different from those in FSHD1 and that these differences may provide new diagnostic and therapeutic tools specific to FSHD2.