Genome modification leads to phenotype reversal in human myotonic dystrophy type 1 induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural stem cells.
ABSTRACT: Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by expanded CTG repeats in the 3'-untranslated region (3' UTR) of the DMPK gene. Correcting the mutation in DM1 stem cells would be an important step toward autologous stem cell therapy. The objective of this study is to demonstrate in vitro genome editing to prevent production of toxic mutant transcripts and reverse phenotypes in DM1 stem cells. Genome editing was performed in DM1 neural stem cells (NSCs) derived from human DM1 induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. An editing cassette containing SV40/bGH polyA signals was integrated upstream of the CTG repeats by TALEN-mediated homologous recombination (HR). The expression of mutant CUG repeats transcript was monitored by nuclear RNA foci, the molecular hallmarks of DM1, using RNA fluorescence in situ hybridization. Alternative splicing of microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) and muscleblind-like (MBNL) proteins were analyzed to further monitor the phenotype reversal after genome modification. The cassette was successfully inserted into DMPK intron 9 and this genomic modification led to complete disappearance of nuclear RNA foci. MAPT and MBNL 1, 2 aberrant splicing in DM1 NSCs were reversed to normal pattern in genome-modified NSCs. Genome modification by integration of exogenous polyA signals upstream of the DMPK CTG repeat expansion prevents the production of toxic RNA and leads to phenotype reversal in human DM1 iPS-cells derived stem cells. Our data provide proof-of-principle evidence that genome modification may be used to generate genetically modified progenitor cells as a first step toward autologous cell transfer therapy for DM1.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by expanded Cytosine-Thymine-Guanine (CTG) repeats in the 3'-untranslated region (3' UTR) of the Dystrophia myotonica protein kinase (DMPK) gene, for which there is no effective therapy. The objective of this study is to develop genome therapy in human DM1 induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to eliminate mutant transcripts and reverse the phenotypes for developing autologous stem cell therapy. The general approach involves targeted insertion of polyA signals (PASs) upstream of DMPK CTG repeats, which will lead to premature termination of transcription and elimination of toxic mutant transcripts. Insertion of PASs was mediated by homologous recombination triggered by site-specific transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN)-induced double-strand break. We found genome-treated DM1 iPS cells continue to maintain pluripotency. The insertion of PASs led to elimination of mutant transcripts and complete disappearance of nuclear RNA foci and reversal of aberrant splicing in linear-differentiated neural stem cells, cardiomyocytes, and teratoma tissues. In conclusion, genome therapy by insertion of PASs upstream of the expanded DMPK CTG repeats prevented the production of toxic mutant transcripts and reversal of phenotypes in DM1 iPS cells and their progeny. These genetically-treated iPS cells will have broad clinical application in developing autologous stem cell therapy for DM1.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is a severe neuromuscular disorder caused by the expression of trinucleotide repeat-containing DMPK transcripts. Abnormally expanded (CUG)n repeats in these transcripts form hairpin-like structures that cause the RNA to accumulate in the cell nucleus by sequestering isoforms of the Muscleblind (MBNL) family, tissue-specific regulators of developmentally programmed, post-transcriptional processes in RNA metabolism. Through this mechanism, the function of MBNL in RNA processing becomes dominantly perturbed, which eventually leads to aberrant alternative splicing and the expression of foetal splice variants of a wide variety of proteins, including the MBNL isoforms themselves. Here, we employ a patient-derived muscle cell model for DM1 to examine in detail the expression of MBNL RNA and protein variants during myogenic differentiation. This DM1 model consists of a panel of isogenic myoblast cell lines that either contain a pathogenic DMPK allele with a congenital mutation of 2600 triplets, or lack this expanded repeat through CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing. We found that the temporal expression levels of MBNL1, MBNL2 and MBNL3 RNAs are not influenced by presence of the (CTG)2600 repeat during myogenesis in vitro. However, throughout myoblast proliferation and differentiation to myotubes a disproportionate inclusion of MBNL1 exon 5 and MBNL2 exons 5 and 8 occurs in cells with the (CTG)2600 repeat. As a consequence, a reduced quantity and imbalanced collection of splice variants of MBNL1 and MBNL2 accumulates in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus of DM1 myoblasts and myotubes. We thus propose that both the quantitative and qualitative changes in the intracellular partitioning of MBNL proteins are a pivotal cause of skeletal muscle problems in DM1, starting already in muscle progenitor cells.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by an unstable expanded CTG repeat located within the DMPK gene 3'UTR. The nature, severity and age at onset of DM1 symptoms are very variable in patients. Different forms of the disease are described, among which the congenital form (CDM) is the most severe. Molecular mechanisms of DM1 are well characterized for the adult form and involve accumulation of mutant DMPK RNA forming foci in the nucleus. These RNA foci sequester proteins from the MBNL family and deregulate CELF proteins. These proteins are involved in many cellular mechanisms such as alternative splicing, transcriptional, translational and post-translational regulation miRNA regulation as well as mRNA polyadenylation and localization. All these mechanisms can be impaired in DM1 because of the deregulation of CELF and MBNL functions. The mechanisms involved in CDM are not clearly described. In order to get insight into the mechanisms underlying CDM, we investigated if expanded RNA nuclear foci, one of the molecular hallmarks of DM1, could be detected in human DM1 fetal tissues, as well as in embryonic and neonatal tissues from transgenic mice carrying the human DMPK gene with an expanded CTG repeat. We observed very abundant RNA foci formed by sense DMPK RNA and, to a lesser extent, antisense DMPK RNA foci. Sense DMPK RNA foci clearly co-localized with MBNL1 and MBNL2 proteins. In addition, we studied DMPK sense and antisense expression during development in the transgenic mice. We found that DMPK sense and antisense transcripts are expressed from embryonic and fetal stages in heart, muscle and brain and are regulated during development. These results suggest that mechanisms underlying DM1 and CDM involved common players including toxic expanded RNA forming numerous nuclear foci at early stages during development.
Project description:CRISPR/Cas9 is an attractive platform to potentially correct dominant genetic diseases by gene editing with unprecedented precision. In the current proof-of-principle study, we explored the use of CRISPR/Cas9 for gene-editing in myotonic dystrophy type-1 (DM1), an autosomal-dominant muscle disorder, by excising the CTG-repeat expansion in the 3'-untranslated-region (UTR) of the human myotonic dystrophy protein kinase (DMPK) gene in DM1 patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (DM1-iPSC), DM1-iPSC-derived myogenic cells and DM1 patient-specific myoblasts. To eliminate the pathogenic gain-of-function mutant DMPK transcript, we designed a dual guide RNA based strategy that excises the CTG-repeat expansion with high efficiency, as confirmed by Southern blot and single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing. Correction efficiencies up to 90% could be attained in DM1-iPSC as confirmed at the clonal level, following ribonucleoprotein (RNP) transfection of CRISPR/Cas9 components without the need for selective enrichment. Expanded CTG repeat excision resulted in the disappearance of ribonuclear foci, a quintessential cellular phenotype of DM1, in the corrected DM1-iPSC, DM1-iPSC-derived myogenic cells and DM1 myoblasts. Consequently, the normal intracellular localization of the muscleblind-like splicing regulator 1 (MBNL1) was restored, resulting in the normalization of splicing pattern of SERCA1. This study validates the use of CRISPR/Cas9 for gene editing of repeat expansions.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type I (DM1) is the most common form of adult muscular dystrophy, caused by expansion of a CTG triplet repeat in the 3' untranslated region (3'UTR) of the myotonic dystrophy protein kinase (DMPK) gene. The pathological CTG repeats result in protein trapping by expanded transcripts, a decreased DMPK translation and the disruption of the chromatin structure, affecting neighboring genes expression. The muscleblind-like (MBNL) and CUG-BP and ETR-3-like factors (CELF) are two families of tissue-specific regulators of developmentally programmed alternative splicing that act as antagonist regulators of several pre-mRNA targets, including troponin 2 (TNNT2), insulin receptor (INSR), chloride channel 1 (CLCN1) and MBNL2. Sequestration of MBNL proteins and up-regulation of CELF1 are key to DM1 pathology, inducing a spliceopathy that leads to a developmental remodelling of the transcriptome due to an adult-to-foetal splicing switch, which results in the loss of cell function and viability. Moreover, recent studies indicate that additional pathogenic mechanisms may also contribute to disease pathology, including a misregulation of cellular mRNA translation, localization and stability. This review focuses on the cause and effects of MBNL and CELF1 deregulation in DM1, describing the molecular mechanisms underlying alternative splicing misregulation for a deeper understanding of DM1 complexity. To contribute to this analysis, we have prepared a comprehensive list of transcript alterations involved in DM1 pathogenesis, as well as other deregulated mRNA processing pathways implications.
Project description:A CTG repeat expansion in the DMPK gene is the causative mutation of myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1). Transcription of the expanded CTG repeat produces toxic gain-of-function CUG RNA, leading to disease symptoms. A screening platform that targets production or stability of the toxic CUG RNA in a selective manner has the potential to provide new biological and therapeutic insights. A DM1 HeLa cell model was generated that stably expresses a toxic r(CUG)480 and an analogous r(CUG)0 control from DMPK and was used to measure the ratio-metric level of r(CUG)480 versus r(CUG)0. This DM1 HeLa model recapitulates pathogenic hallmarks of DM1, including CUG ribonuclear foci and missplicing of pre-mRNA targets of the muscleblind (MBNL) alternative splicing factors. Repeat-selective screening using this cell line led to the unexpected identification of multiple microtubule inhibitors as hits that selectively reduce r(CUG)480 levels and partially rescue MBNL-dependent missplicing. These results were validated by using the Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical microtubule inhibitor colchicine in DM1 mouse and primary patient cell models. The mechanism of action was found to involve selective reduced transcription of the CTG expansion that we hypothesize to involve the LINC (linker of nucleoskeleton and cytoskeleton) complex. The unanticipated identification of microtubule inhibitors as selective modulators of toxic CUG RNA opens research directions for this form of muscular dystrophy and may shed light on the biology of CTG repeat expansion and inform therapeutic avenues. This approach has the potential to identify modulators of expanded repeat-containing gene expression for over 30 microsatellite expansion disorders.
Project description:Expansion of an unstable CTG repeat in the 3'UTR of the DMPK gene causes Myotonic Dystrophy type 1 (DM1). CUG-expanded DMPK transcripts (CUGexp) sequester Muscleblind-like (MBNL) alternative splicing regulators in ribonuclear inclusions (foci), leading to abnormalities in RNA processing and splicing. To alleviate the burden of CUGexp, we tested therapeutic approach utilizing antisense oligonucleotides (AONs)-mediated DMPK splice-switching and degradation of mutated pre-mRNA. Experimental design involved: (i) skipping of selected constitutive exons to induce frameshifting and decay of toxic mRNAs by an RNA surveillance mechanism, and (ii) exclusion of the alternative exon 15 (e15) carrying CUGexp from DMPK mRNA. While first strategy failed to stimulate DMPK mRNA decay, exclusion of e15 enhanced DMPK nuclear export but triggered accumulation of potentially harmful spliced out pre-mRNA fragment containing CUGexp. Neutralization of this fragment with antisense gapmers complementary to intronic sequences preceding e15 failed to diminish DM1-specific spliceopathy due to AONs' chemistry-related toxicity. However, intronic gapmers alone reduced the level of DMPK mRNA and mitigated DM1-related cellular phenotypes including spliceopathy and nuclear foci. Thus, a combination of the correct chemistry and experimental approach should be carefully considered to design a safe AON-based therapeutic strategy for DM1.
Project description:Severe skeletal muscle wasting is the most debilitating symptom experienced by individuals with myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1). We present a DM1 mouse model with inducible and skeletal muscle-specific expression of large tracts of CTG repeats in the context of DMPK exon 15. These mice recapitulate many findings associated with DM1 skeletal muscle, such as CUG RNA foci with Muscleblind-like 1 (MBNL1) protein colocalization, misregulation of developmentally regulated alternative splicing events, myotonia, characteristic histological abnormalities, and increased CUGBP1 protein levels. Importantly, this DM1 mouse model recapitulates severe muscle wasting, which has not been reported in models in which depletion of MBNL1 is the main feature. Using these mice, we discovered previously undescribed alternative splicing events that are responsive to CUGBP1 and not MBNL, and these events were found to be misregulated in individuals with DM1. Our results indicate that increased CUGBP1 protein levels are associated with DMPK-CUG RNA expression, suggesting a role for CUGBP1-specific splicing or cytoplasmic functions in muscle wasting.
Project description:Short tandem repeats (STRs) are prone to expansion mutations that cause multiple hereditary neurological and neuromuscular diseases. To study pathomechanisms using mouse models that recapitulate the tissue specificity and developmental timing of an STR expansion gene, we used rolling circle amplification and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing to generate Dmpk CTG expansion (CTGexp) knockin models of myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1). We demonstrate that skeletal muscle myoblasts and brain choroid plexus epithelial cells are particularly susceptible to Dmpk CTGexp mutations and RNA missplicing. Our results implicate dysregulation of muscle regeneration and cerebrospinal fluid homeostasis as early pathogenic events in DM1.
Project description:Myotonic Dystrophy type 1 (DM1) originates from alleles of the DMPK gene with hundreds of extra CTG repeats in the 3' untranslated region (3' UTR). CUG repeat RNAs accumulate in foci that sequester Muscleblind-like (MBNL) proteins away from their functional target transcripts. Endogenous upregulation of MBNL proteins is, thus, a potential therapeutic approach to DM1. Here we identify two miRNAs, dme-miR-277 and dme-miR-304, that differentially regulate muscleblind RNA isoforms in miRNA sensor constructs. We also show that their sequestration by sponge constructs derepresses endogenous muscleblind not only in a wild type background but also in a DM1 Drosophila model expressing non-coding CUG trinucleotide repeats throughout the musculature. Enhanced muscleblind expression resulted in significant rescue of pathological phenotypes, including reversal of several mis-splicing events and reduced muscle atrophy in DM1 adult flies. Rescued flies had improved muscle function in climbing and flight assays, and had longer lifespan compared to disease controls. These studies provide proof of concept for a similar potentially therapeutic approach to DM1 in humans.