Antisense oligonucleotides correct the familial dysautonomia splicing defect in IKBKAP transgenic mice.
ABSTRACT: Familial dysautonomia (FD) is a rare inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by a point mutation in the IKBKAP gene that results in defective splicing of its pre-mRNA. The mutation weakens the 5' splice site of exon 20, causing this exon to be skipped, thereby introducing a premature termination codon. Though detailed FD pathogenesis mechanisms are not yet clear, correcting the splicing defect in the relevant tissue(s), thus restoring normal expression levels of the full-length IKAP protein, could be therapeutic. Splice-switching antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) can be effective targeted therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases, such as nusinersen (Spinraza), an approved drug for spinal muscular atrophy. Using a two-step screen with ASOs targeting IKBKAP exon 20 or the adjoining intronic regions, we identified a lead ASO that fully restored exon 20 splicing in FD patient fibroblasts. We also characterized the corresponding cis-acting regulatory sequences that control exon 20 splicing. When administered into a transgenic FD mouse model, the lead ASO promoted expression of full-length human IKBKAP mRNA and IKAP protein levels in several tissues tested, including the central nervous system. These findings provide insights into the mechanisms of IKBKAP exon 20 recognition, and pre-clinical proof of concept for an ASO-based targeted therapy for FD.
Project description:Familial dysautonomia (FD) is a severe genetic disorder causing sensory and autonomic dysfunction. It is predominantly caused by a c.2204+6T>C mutation in the IKBKAP gene. This mutation decreases the 5' splice site strength of IKBKAP exon 20 leading to exon 20 skipping and decreased amounts of full-length IKAP protein. We identified a binding site for the splicing regulatory protein hnRNP A1 downstream of the IKBKAP exon 20 5'-splice site. We show that hnRNP A1 binds to this splicing regulatory element (SRE) and that two previously described inhibitory SREs inside IKBKAP exon 20 are also bound by hnRNP A1. Knockdown of hnRNP A1 in FD patient fibroblasts increases IKBKAP exon 20 inclusion demonstrating that hnRNP A1 is a negative regulator of IKBKAP exon 20 splicing. Furthermore, by mutating the SREs in an IKBKAP minigene we show that all three SREs cause hnRNP A1-mediated exon repression. We designed splice switching oligonucleotides (SSO) that blocks the intronic hnRNP A1 binding site, and demonstrate that this completely rescues splicing of IKBKAP exon 20 in FD patient fibroblasts and increases the amounts of IKAP protein. We propose that this may be developed into a potential new specific treatment of FD.
Project description:Familial dysautonomia (FD) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease that affects the development and survival of sensory and autonomic neurons. FD is caused by an mRNA splicing mutation in intron 20 of the IKBKAP gene that results in a tissue-specific skipping of exon 20 and a corresponding reduction of the inhibitor of kappaB kinase complex-associated protein (IKAP), also known as Elongator complex protein 1. To date, several promising therapeutic candidates for FD have been identified that target the underlying mRNA splicing defect, and increase functional IKAP protein. Despite these remarkable advances in drug discovery for FD, we lacked a phenotypic mouse model in which we could manipulate IKBKAP mRNA splicing to evaluate potential efficacy. We have, therefore, engineered a new mouse model that, for the first time, will permit to evaluate the phenotypic effects of splicing modulators and provide a crucial platform for preclinical testing of new therapies. This new mouse model, TgFD9; Ikbkap(?20/flox) was created by introducing the complete human IKBKAP transgene with the major FD splice mutation (TgFD9) into a mouse that expresses extremely low levels of endogenous Ikbkap (Ikbkap(?20/flox)). The TgFD9; Ikbkap(?20/flox) mouse recapitulates many phenotypic features of the human disease, including reduced growth rate, reduced number of fungiform papillae, spinal abnormalities, and sensory and sympathetic impairments, and recreates the same tissue-specific mis-splicing defect seen in FD patients. This is the first mouse model that can be used to evaluate in vivo the therapeutic effect of increasing IKAP levels by correcting the underlying FD splicing defect.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Familial dysautonomia (FD) is a hereditary neuropathy caused by mutations in the IKBKAP gene, the most common of which results in variable tissue-specific mRNA splicing with skipping of exon 20. Defective splicing is especially severe in nervous tissue, leading to incomplete development and progressive degeneration of sensory and autonomic neurons. The specificity of neuron loss in FD is poorly understood due to the lack of an appropriate model system. To better understand and modelize the molecular mechanisms of IKBKAP mRNA splicing, we collected human olfactory ecto-mesenchymal stem cells (hOE-MSC) from FD patients. hOE-MSCs have a pluripotent ability to differentiate into various cell lineages, including neurons and glial cells. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We confirmed IKBKAP mRNA alternative splicing in FD hOE-MSCs and identified 2 novel spliced isoforms also present in control cells. We observed a significant lower expression of both IKBKAP transcript and IKAP/hELP1 protein in FD cells resulting from the degradation of the transcript isoform skipping exon 20. We localized IKAP/hELP1 in different cell compartments, including the nucleus, which supports multiple roles for that protein. We also investigated cellular pathways altered in FD, at the genome-wide level, and confirmed that cell migration and cytoskeleton reorganization were among the processes altered in FD. Indeed, FD hOE-MSCs exhibit impaired migration compared to control cells. Moreover, we showed that kinetin improved exon 20 inclusion and restores a normal level of IKAP/hELP1 in FD hOE-MSCs. Furthermore, we were able to modify the IKBKAP splicing ratio in FD hOE-MSCs, increasing or reducing the WT (exon 20 inclusion):MU (exon 20 skipping) ratio respectively, either by producing free-floating spheres, or by inducing cells into neural differentiation. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: hOE-MSCs isolated from FD patients represent a new approach for modeling FD to better understand genetic expression and possible therapeutic approaches. This model could also be applied to other neurological genetic diseases.
Project description:Familial dysautonomia (FD) is a severe hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy, and all patients with FD have a splice mutation in the IKBKAP gene. The FD splice mutation results in variable, tissue-specific skipping of exon 20 in IKBKAP mRNA, which leads to reduced IKAP protein levels. The development of therapies for FD will require suitable mouse models for preclinical studies. In this study, we report the generation and characterization of a mouse model carrying the complete human IKBKAP locus with the FD IVS20+6T-->C splice mutation. We show that the mutant IKBKAP transgene is misspliced in this model in a tissue-specific manner that replicates the pattern seen in FD patient tissues. Creation of this humanized mouse is the first step toward development of a complex phenotypic model of FD. These transgenic mice are an ideal model system for testing the effectiveness of therapeutic agents that target the missplicing defect. Last, these mice will permit direct studies of tissue-specific splicing and the identification of regulatory factors that play a role in complex gene expression.
Project description:Familial dysautonomia (FD), a hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy, is caused by missplicing of exon 20, resulting from an intronic mutation in the inhibitor of kappa light polypeptide gene enhancer in B cells, kinase complex-associated protein (IKBKAP) gene encoding IKK complex-associated protein (IKAP)/elongator protein 1 (ELP1). A newly established splicing reporter assay allowed us to visualize pathogenic splicing in cells and to screen small chemicals for the ability to correct the aberrant splicing of IKBKAP. Using this splicing reporter, we screened our chemical libraries and identified a compound, rectifier of aberrant splicing (RECTAS), that rectifies the aberrant IKBKAP splicing in cells from patients with FD. Here, we found that the levels of modified uridine at the wobble position in cytoplasmic tRNAs are reduced in cells from patients with FD and that treatment with RECTAS increases the expression of IKAP and recovers the tRNA modifications. These findings suggest that the missplicing of IKBKAP results in reduced tRNA modifications in patients with FD and that RECTAS is a promising therapeutic drug candidate for FD.
Project description:The 5' splice site mutation (IVS20+6T>C) of the inhibitor of ? light polypeptide gene enhancer in B cells, kinase complex-associated protein (IKBKAP) gene in familial dysautonomia (FD) is at the sixth intronic nucleotide of the 5' splice site. It is known to weaken U1 snRNP recognition and result in an aberrantly spliced mRNA product in neuronal tissue, but normally spliced mRNA in other tissues. Aberrantly spliced IKBKAP mRNA abrogates IKK complex-associated protein (IKAP)/elongator protein 1 (ELP1) expression and results in a defect of neuronal cell development in FD. To elucidate the tissue-dependent regulatory mechanism, we screened an expression library of major RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) with our mammalian dual-color splicing reporter system and identified RBM24 as a regulator. RBM24 functioned as a cryptic intronic splicing enhancer binding to an element (IVS20+13-29) downstream from the intronic 5' splice site mutation in the IKBKAP gene and promoted U1 snRNP recognition only to the mutated 5' splice site (and not the wild-type 5' splice site). Our results show that tissue-specific expression of RBM24 can explain the neuron-specific aberrant splicing of IKBKAP exon 20 in familial dysautonomia, and that ectopic expression of RBM24 in neuronal tissue could be a novel therapeutic target of the disease.
Project description:Familial Dysautonomia (FD) is an autosomal recessive disorder that affects 1/3,600 live births in the Ashkenazi Jewish population, and leads to death before the age of 40. The disease is characterized by abnormal development and progressive degeneration of the sensory and autonomic nervous system. A single base pair substitution in intron 20 of the Ikbkap gene accounts for 98% of FD cases, and results in the expression of low levels of the full-length mRNA with simultaneous expression of an aberrantly spliced mRNA in which exon 20 is missing. To date, there is no animal model for the disease, and the essential cellular functions of IKAP--the protein encoded by Ikbkap--remain unknown. To better understand the normal function of IKAP and in an effort to generate a mouse model for FD, we have targeted the mouse Ikbkap gene by homologous recombination. We created two distinct alleles that result in either loss of Ikbkap expression, or expression of an mRNA lacking only exon 20. Homozygosity for either mutation leads to developmental delay, cardiovascular and brain malformations, accompanied with early embryonic lethality. Our analyses indicate that IKAP is essential for expression of specific genes involved in cardiac morphogenesis, and that cardiac failure is the likely cause of abnormal vascular development and embryonic lethality. Our results also indicate that deletion of exon 20 abolishes gene function. This implies that the truncated IKAP protein expressed in FD patients does not retain any significant biological function.
Project description:Familial Dysautonomia (FD) is an autosomal recessive congenital neuropathy that results from abnormal development and progressive degeneration of the sensory and autonomic nervous system. The mutation observed in almost all FD patients is a point mutation at position 6 of intron 20 of the IKBKAP gene; this gene encodes the I?B kinase complex-associated protein (IKAP). The mutation results in a tissue-specific splicing defect: Exon 20 is skipped, leading to reduced IKAP protein expression. Here we show that phosphatidylserine (PS), an FDA-approved food supplement, increased IKAP mRNA levels in cells derived from FD patients. Long-term treatment with PS led to a significant increase in IKAP protein levels in these cells. A conjugate of PS and an omega-3 fatty acid also increased IKAP mRNA levels. Furthermore, PS treatment released FD cells from cell cycle arrest and up-regulated a significant number of genes involved in cell cycle regulation. Our results suggest that PS has potential for use as a therapeutic agent for FD. Understanding its mechanism of action may reveal the mechanism underlying the FD disease.
Project description:Familial Dysautonomia (FD) is an autosomal recessive congenital neuropathy that results from a point mutation at the 5' splice site of intron 20 in the IKBKAP gene. This mutation decreases production of the IKAP protein, and treatments that increase the level of the full-length IKBKAP transcript are likely to be of therapeutic value. We previously found that phosphatidylserine (PS), an FDA-approved food supplement, elevates IKAP levels in cells generated from FD patients. Here we demonstrate that combined treatment of cells generated from FD patients with PS and kinetin or PS and the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) resulted in an additive elevation of IKAP compared to each drug alone. This indicates that the compounds influence different pathways. We also found that pridopidine enhances production of IKAP in cells generated from FD patients. Pridopidine has an additive effect on IKAP levels when used in combination with kinetin or TSA, but not with PS; suggesting that PS and pridopidine influence IKBKAP levels through the same mechanism. Indeed, we demonstrate that the effect of PS and pridopidine is through sigma-1 receptor-mediated activation of the BDNF signaling pathway. A combination treatment with any of these drugs with different mechanisms has potential to benefit FD patients.
Project description:A splicing mutation in the IKBKAP gene causes Familial Dysautonomia (FD), affecting the IKAP protein expression levels and proper development and function of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Here we found new molecular insights for the IKAP role and the impact of the FD mutation in the human PNS lineage by using a novel and unique human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line homozygous to the FD mutation originated by pre implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) analysis. We found that IKBKAP downregulation during PNS differentiation affects normal migration in FD-hESC derived neural crest cells (NCC) while at later stages the PNS neurons show reduced intracellular colocalization between vesicular proteins and IKAP. Comparative wide transcriptome analysis of FD and WT hESC-derived neurons together with the analysis of human brains from FD and WT 12 weeks old embryos and experimental validation of the results confirmed that synaptic vesicular and neuronal transport genes are directly or indirectly affected by IKBKAP downregulation in FD neurons. Moreover we show that kinetin (a drug that corrects IKBKAP alternative splicing) promotes the recovery of IKAP expression and these IKAP functional associated genes identified in the study. Altogether, these results support the view that IKAP might be a vesicular like protein that might be involved in neuronal transport in hESC derived PNS neurons. This function seems to be mostly affected in FD-hESC derived PNS neurons probably reflecting some PNS neuronal dysfunction observed in FD.