Allele-specific silencing of mutant huntingtin and ataxin-3 genes by targeting expanded CAG repeats in mRNAs.

Department of Pharmacology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA.
Nature Biotechnology (Impact Factor: 39.08). 06/2009; 27(5):478-84. DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1539
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Expanded trinucleotide repeats cause many neurological diseases. These include Machado-Joseph disease (MJD) and Huntington's disease (HD), which are caused by expanded CAG repeats within an allele of the ataxin-3 (ATXN3) and huntingtin (HTT) genes, respectively. Silencing expression of these genes is a promising therapeutic strategy, but indiscriminate inhibition of both the mutant and wild-type alleles may lead to toxicity, and allele-specific approaches have required polymorphisms that differ among individuals. We report that peptide nucleic acid and locked nucleic acid antisense oligomers that target CAG repeats can preferentially inhibit mutant ataxin-3 and HTT protein expression in cultured cells. Duplex RNAs were less selective than single-stranded oligomers. The activity of the peptide nucleic acids does not involve inhibition of transcription, and differences in mRNA secondary structure or the number of oligomer binding sites may be important. Antisense oligomers that discriminate between wild-type and mutant genes on the basis of repeat length may offer new options for developing treatments for MJD, HD and related hereditary diseases.

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    ABSTRACT: Antisense oligonucleotides are synthetic single stranded strings of nucleic acids that bind to RNA and thereby alter or reduce expression of the target RNA. They can reduce expression of mutant proteins by breakdown of the targeted transcript, but they can also restore protein expression or modify proteins through interference with pre-mRNA splicing. There has been a recent revival of interest in the use of antisense oligonucleotides to treat several neurodegenerative disorders using different approaches to prevent disease onset or halt disease progression and the first clinical trials for spinal muscular atrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis showing promising results. For these trials, intrathecal delivery is being used but direct infusion into the brain ventricles and several methods of passing the blood brain barrier after peripheral administration are also under investigation. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.
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    ABSTRACT: Production of protein containing lengthy stretches of polyglutamine encoded by multiple repeats of the trinucleotide CAG is a hallmark of Huntington's disease (HD) and of a variety of other inherited degenerative neurological and neuromuscular disorders. Earlier work has shown that interference with production of the transcription elongation protein SUPT4H results in decreased cellular capacity to transcribe mutant huntingtin gene (Htt) alleles containing long CAG expansions, but has little effect on expression of genes containing short CAG stretches. zQ175 and R6/2 are genetically engineered mouse strains whose genomes contain human HTT alleles that include greatly expanded CAG repeats and which are used as animal models for HD. Here we show that reduction of SUPT4H expression in brains of zQ175 mice by intracerebroventricular bolus injection of antisense 2'-O-methoxyethyl oligonucleotides (ASOs) directed against Supt4h, or in R6/2 mice by deletion of one copy of the Supt4h gene, results in a decrease in mRNA and protein encoded specifically by mutant Htt alleles. We further show that reduction of SUPT4H in mouse brains is associated with decreased HTT protein aggregation, and in R6/2 mice, also with prolonged lifespan and delay of the motor impairment that normally develops in these animals. Our findings support the view that targeting of SUPT4H function may be useful as a therapeutic countermeasure against HD.
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Huntington disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by motor, psychiatric and cognitive symptoms. HD is caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the first exon of the HTT gene, resulting in an expanded polyglutamine tract at the N-terminus of the huntingtin protein. Typical disease onset is around mid-life (adult-onset HD) whereas onset below 21 years is classified as juvenile HD. While much research has been done on the underlying HD disease mechanisms, little is known about regulation and expression levels of huntingtin RNA and protein. Results: In this study we used 15 human post-mortem HD brain samples to investigate the expression of wild-type and mutant huntingtin mRNA and protein. In adult-onset HD brain samples, there was a small but significantly lower expression of mutant huntingtin mRNA compared to wild-type huntingtin mRNA, while wild-type and mutant huntingtin protein expression levels did not differ significantly. Juvenile HD subjects did show a lower expression of mutant huntingtin protein compared to wild-type huntingtin protein. Our results in HD brain and fibroblasts suggest that protein aggregation does not affect levels of huntingtin RNA and protein. Additionally, we did not find any evidence for a reduced expression of huntingtin antisense in fibroblasts derived from a homozygous HD patient. Conclusions: We found small differences in allelic huntingtin mRNA levels in adult-onset HD brain, with significantly lower mutant huntingtin mRNA levels. Wild-type and mutant huntingtin protein were not significantly different in adult-onset HD brain samples. Conversely, in juvenile HD brain samples mutant huntingtin protein levels were lower compared with wild-type huntingtin, showing subtle differences between juvenile HD and adult-onset HD. Since most HD model systems harbor juvenile repeat expansions, our results suggest caution with the interpretation of huntingtin mRNA and protein studies using HD cell and animal models with such long repeats. Furthermore, our huntingtin antisense results in homozygous HD cells do not support reduced huntingtin antisense expression due to an expanded CAG repeat.
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