BackgroundHuntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by the expansion of the HTT CAG repeat. Affected individuals inherit ≥36 repeats and longer alleles cause earlier onset, greater disease severity and faster disease progression. The HTT CAG repeat is genetically unstable in the soma in a process that preferentially generates somatic expansions, the proportion of which is associated with disease onset, severity and progression. Somatic mosaicism of the HTT CAG repeat has traditionally been assessed by semi-quantitative PCR-electrophoresis approaches that have limitations (e.g., no information about sequence variants). Genotyping-by-sequencing could allow for some of these limitations to be overcome.
ObjectiveTo investigate the utility of PCR sequencing to genotype large (>50 CAGs) HD alleles and to quantify the associated somatic mosaicism.
MethodsWe have applied MiSeq and PacBio sequencing to PCR products of the HTT CAG repeat in transgenic R6/2 mice carrying ∼55, ∼110, ∼255 and ∼470 CAGs. For each of these alleles, we compared the repeat length distributions generated for different tissues at two ages.
ResultsWe were able to sequence the CAG repeat full length in all samples. However, the repeat length distributions for samples with ∼470 CAGs were biased towards shorter repeat lengths.
ConclusionPCR sequencing can be used to sequence all the HD alleles considered, but this approach cannot be used to estimate modal allele size or quantify somatic expansions for alleles ⪢250 CAGs. We review the limitations of PCR sequencing and alternative approaches that may allow the quantification of somatic contractions and very large somatic expansions.