Spinocerebellar ataxia type 5 (SCA5), a dominant neurodegenerative disease characterized by profound Purkinje cell loss, is caused by mutations in SPTBN2, a gene that encodes ?-III spectrin. SCA5 is the first neurodegenerative disorder reported to be caused by mutations in a cytoskeletal spectrin gene. We have developed a mouse model to understand the mechanistic basis for this disease and show that expression of mutant but not wild-type ?-III spectrin causes progressive motor deficits and cerebellar degeneration. We show that endogenous ?-III spectrin interacts with the metabotropic glutamate receptor 1? (mGluR1?) and that mice expressing mutant ?-III spectrin have cerebellar dysfunction with altered mGluR1? localization at Purkinje cell dendritic spines, decreased mGluR1-mediated responses, and deficient mGluR1-mediated long-term potentiation. These results indicate that mutant ?-III spectrin causes mislocalization and dysfunction of mGluR1? at dendritic spines and connects SCA5 with other disorders involving glutamatergic dysfunction and synaptic plasticity abnormalities.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are the main syndromes of the chromosome 9 ORF72 (C9ORF72) hexanucleotide repeat expansion, but studies have shown a substantial phenotypic diversity that includes psychiatric presentations. This study describes hippocampal sclerosis dementia (HSD) in carriers of the C9ORF72 mutation. We compared clinical and neuropathological features of HSD in carriers and noncarriers autopsied at Johns Hopkins. Carriers presented with amnesia, agitation, dissocial behavior, and impaired self-care, whereas noncarriers showed little agitation. The groups were not dissimilar in cognitive or motor dysfunction. Neuropathological examination of carriers showed cerebellar neuronal inclusions positive for ubiquitin, p62, and ubiquilin-2, and negative for TAR DNA-binding protein 43. Noncarriers did not have cerebellar inclusions. C9ORF72 repeat-associated non-ATG translation was confirmed by immunohistochemistry. These observations broaden the C9ORF72 phenotype and place HSD in the FTD spectrum. The amnesic phenotype of HSD, which is consistent with the focal hippocampal atrophy, should be included in clinical categorizations of FTD.
Microsatellite-expansion diseases are a class of neurological and neuromuscular disorders caused by the expansion of short stretches of repetitive DNA (e.g. GGGGCC, CAG, CTG …) within the human genome. Since their discovery 20 years ago, research into how microsatellites expansions cause disease has been examined using the model that these genes are expressed in one direction and that expansion mutations only encode proteins when located in an ATG-initiated open reading frame. The fact that these mutations are often bidirectionally transcribed combined with the recent discovery of repeat associated non-ATG (RAN) translation provides new perspectives on how these expansion mutations are expressed and impact disease. Two expansion transcripts and a set of unexpected RAN proteins must now be considered for both coding and 'non-coding' expansion disorders. RAN proteins have been reported in a growing number of diseases, including spinocerebellar ataxia type 8 (SCA8), myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), Fragile-X tremor ataxia syndrome (FXTAS), and C9ORF72 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
The finding that a GGGGCC (G4C2) hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the chromosome 9 ORF 72 (C9ORF72) gene is a common cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) links ALS/FTD to a large group of unstable microsatellite diseases. Previously, we showed that microsatellite expansion mutations can be bidirectionally transcribed and that these mutations express unexpected proteins by a unique mechanism, repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation. In this study, we show that C9ORF72 antisense transcripts are elevated in the brains of C9ORF72 expansion-positive [C9(+)] patients, and antisense GGCCCC (G2C4) repeat-expansion RNAs accumulate in nuclear foci in brain. Additionally, sense and antisense foci accumulate in blood and are potential biomarkers of the disease. Furthermore, we show that RAN translation occurs from both sense and antisense expansion transcripts, resulting in the expression of six RAN proteins (antisense: Pro-Arg, Pro-Ala, Gly-Pro; and sense: Gly-Ala, Gly-Arg, Gly-Pro). These proteins accumulate in cytoplasmic aggregates in affected brain regions, including the frontal and motor cortex, hippocampus, and spinal cord neurons, with some brain regions showing dramatic RAN protein accumulation and clustering. The finding that unique antisense G2C4 RNA foci and three unique antisense RAN proteins accumulate in patient tissues indicates that bidirectional transcription of expanded alleles is a fundamental pathologic feature of C9ORF72 ALS/FTD. Additionally, these findings suggest the need to test therapeutic strategies that target both sense and antisense RNAs and RAN proteins in C9ORF72 ALS/FTD, and to more broadly consider the role of antisense expression and RAN translation across microsatellite expansion diseases.
Well-established rules of translational initiation have been used as a cornerstone in molecular biology to understand gene expression and to frame fundamental questions on what proteins a cell synthesizes, how proteins work and to predict the consequences of mutations. For a group of neurological diseases caused by the abnormal expansion of short segments of DNA (e.g. CAG•CTG repeats), mutations within or outside of predicted coding and non-coding regions are thought to cause disease by protein gain- or loss-of-function or RNA gain-of-function mechanisms. In contrast to these predictions, the recent discovery of repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation showed expansion mutations can express homopolymeric expansion proteins in all three reading frames without an AUG start codon. This unanticipated, non-canonical type of protein translation is length-and hairpin-dependent, takes place without frameshifting or RNA editing and occurs across a variety of repeat motifs. To date, RAN proteins have been reported in spinocerebellar ataxia type 8 (SCA8), myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), fragile X tremor ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) and C9ORF72 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/frontotemporal dementia (ALS/FTD). In this article, we review what is currently known about RAN translation and recent progress toward understanding its contribution to disease.
Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is a multi-systemic disease that impacts cardiac and skeletal muscle as well as the central nervous system (CNS). DM is unusual because it is an RNA-mediated disorder due to the expression of toxic microsatellite expansion RNAs that alter the activities of RNA processing factors, including the muscleblind-like (MBNL) proteins. While these mutant RNAs inhibit MBNL1 splicing activity in heart and skeletal muscles, Mbnl1 knockout mice fail to recapitulate the full-range of DM symptoms in these tissues. Here, we generate mouse Mbnl compound knockouts to test the hypothesis that Mbnl2 functionally compensates for Mbnl1 loss. Although Mbnl1(-/-) ; Mbnl2(-/-) double knockouts (DKOs) are embryonic lethal, Mbnl1(-/-) ; Mbnl2(+/-) mice are viable but develop cardinal features of DM muscle disease including reduced lifespan, heart conduction block, severe myotonia and progressive skeletal muscle weakness. Mbnl2 protein levels are elevated in Mbnl1(-/-) knockouts where Mbnl2 targets Mbnl1-regulated exons. These findings support the hypothesis that compound loss of MBNL function is a critical event in DM pathogenesis and provide novel mouse models to investigate additional pathways disrupted in this RNA-mediated disease.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) has been subdivided based on the main pathology found in the brains of affected individuals. When the primary pathology is aggregated, hyperphosphorylated tau, the pathological diagnosis is FTLD-tau. When the primary pathology is cytoplasmic and/or nuclear aggregates of phosphorylated TAR-DNA-binding protein (TDP-43), the pathological diagnosis is FTLD-TDP. Notably, TDP-43 pathology can also occur in conjunction with a number of neurodegenerative disorders; however, unknown environmental and genetic factors may regulate this TDP-43 pathology. Using transgenic mouse models of several diseases of the central nervous system, we explored whether a primary proteinopathy might secondarily drive TDP-43 proteinopathy. We found abnormal, cytoplasmic accumulation of phosphorylated TDP-43 specifically in two tau transgenic models, but TDP-43 pathology was absent in mouse models of A? deposition, ?-synucleinopathy or Huntingtons disease. Though tau pathology showed considerable overlap with cytoplasmic, phosphorylated TDP-43, tau pathology generally preceded TDP-43 pathology. Biochemical analysis confirmed the presence of TDP-43 abnormalities in the tau mice, which showed increased levels of high molecular weight, soluble TDP-43 and insoluble full-length and ~35 kD TDP-43. These data demonstrate that the neurodegenerative cascade associated with a primary tauopathy in tau transgenic mice can also promote TDP-43 abnormalities. These findings provide the first in vivo models to understand how TDP-43 pathology may arise as a secondary consequence of a primary proteinopathy.
Gain-of function or dominant-negative mutations in the voltage-gated potassium channel KCNC3 (Kv3.3) were recently identified as a cause of autosomal dominant spinocerebellar ataxia. Our objective was to describe the frequency of mutations associated with KCNC3 in a large cohort of index patients with sporadic or familial ataxia presenting to three US ataxia clinics at academic medical centers.
Myotonic dystrophy type 2 (DM2) is a progressive multisystem disease with muscle weakness and myotonia as main characteristics. The disease is caused by a repeat expansion in the zinc-finger protein 9 (ZNF9) gene on chromosome 3q21. Several reports show that patients from European ancestry share an identical haplotype surrounding the ZNF9 gene. In this study, we investigated whether the Dutch DM2 population carries the same founder haplotype. In all, 40 Dutch DM2 patients from 16 families were genotyped for eight short tandem repeat markers surrounding the ZNF9 gene. In addition, the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs1871922 located in the first intron of DM2 was genotyped. Results were compared with previously published haplotypes from unrelated Caucasian patients. The repeat lengths identified in this study were in agreement with existing literature. In 36 patients of our population, we identified three common haplotypes. One patient showed overlap with the common haplotype for only one marker closest to the ZNF9 gene. The haplotype from a family originating from Morocco showed overlap with that of the patients of European descent for a region of 222?kb. All patients carried at least one C allele of SNP rs1871922 indicating that all patients carry the European founder haplotype. We conclude that DM2 patients from the Netherlands, including a North-African family, harbor a common haplotype surrounding the ZNF9 gene. This data show that the Dutch patients carry the common founder haplotype and strongly suggest that DM2 mutations in Europe and North Africa originate from a single ancestral founder.
Trinucleotide expansions cause disease by both protein- and RNA-mediated mechanisms. Unexpectedly, we discovered that CAG expansion constructs express homopolymeric polyglutamine, polyalanine, and polyserine proteins in the absence of an ATG start codon. This repeat-associated non-ATG translation (RAN translation) occurs across long, hairpin-forming repeats in transfected cells or when expansion constructs are integrated into the genome in lentiviral-transduced cells and brains. Additionally, we show that RAN translation across human spinocerebellar ataxia type 8 (SCA8) and myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) CAG expansion transcripts results in the accumulation of SCA8 polyalanine and DM1 polyglutamine expansion proteins in previously established SCA8 and DM1 mouse models and human tissue. These results have implications for understanding fundamental mechanisms of gene expression. Moreover, these toxic, unexpected, homopolymeric proteins now should be considered in pathogenic models of microsatellite disorders.
Spinocerebellar ataxia type 5 (SCA5) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutations in the SPBTN2 gene encoding beta-III-spectrin. To investigate the molecular basis of SCA5, we established a series of transgenic Drosophila models that express human beta-III-spectrin or fly beta-spectrin proteins containing SCA5 mutations. Expression of the SCA5 mutant spectrin in the eye causes a progressive neurodegenerative phenotype, and expression in larval neurons results in posterior paralysis, reduced synaptic terminal growth, and axonal transport deficits. These phenotypes are genetically enhanced by both dynein and dynactin loss-of-function mutations. In summary, we demonstrate that SCA5 mutant spectrin causes adult-onset neurodegeneration in the fly eye and disrupts fundamental intracellular transport processes that are likely to contribute to this progressive neurodegenerative disease.
The identification of genes for monogenic disorders has proven to be highly effective for understanding disease mechanisms, pathways and gene function in humans. Nevertheless, while thousands of Mendelian disorders have not yet been mapped there has been a trend away from studying single-gene disorders. In part, this is due to the fact that many of the remaining single-gene families are not large enough to map the disease locus to a single site in the genome. New tools and approaches are needed to allow researchers to effectively tap into this genetic gold-mine. Towards this goal, we have used haploid cell lines to experimentally validate the use of high-density single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays to define genome-wide haplotypes and candidate regions, using a small amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) family as a prototype. Specifically, we used haploid-cell lines to determine if high-density SNP arrays accurately predict haplotypes across entire chromosomes and show that haplotype information significantly enhances the genetic information in small families. Panels of haploid-cell lines were generated and a 5 centimorgan (cM) short tandem repeat polymorphism (STRP) genome scan was performed. Experimentally derived haplotypes for entire chromosomes were used to directly identify regions of the genome identical-by-descent in 5 affected individuals. Comparisons between experimentally determined and in silico haplotypes predicted from SNP arrays demonstrate that SNP analysis of diploid DNA accurately predicted chromosomal haplotypes. These methods precisely identified 12 candidate intervals, which are shared by all 5 affected individuals. Our study illustrates how genetic information can be maximized using readily available tools as a first step in mapping single-gene disorders in small families.
Microsatellite expansions cause a number of dominantly-inherited neurological diseases. Expansions in coding-regions cause protein gain-of-function effects, while non-coding expansions produce toxic RNAs that alter RNA splicing activities of MBNL and CELF proteins. Bi-directional expression of the spinocerebellar ataxia type 8 (SCA8) CTG CAG expansion produces CUG expansion RNAs (CUG(exp)) from the ATXN8OS gene and a nearly pure polyglutamine expansion protein encoded by ATXN8 CAG(exp) transcripts expressed in the opposite direction. Here, we present three lines of evidence that RNA gain-of-function plays a significant role in SCA8: 1) CUG(exp) transcripts accumulate as ribonuclear inclusions that co-localize with MBNL1 in selected neurons in the brain; 2) loss of Mbnl1 enhances motor deficits in SCA8 mice; 3) SCA8 CUG(exp) transcripts trigger splicing changes and increased expression of the CUGBP1-MBNL1 regulated CNS target, GABA-A transporter 4 (GAT4/Gabt4). In vivo optical imaging studies in SCA8 mice confirm that Gabt4 upregulation is associated with the predicted loss of GABAergic inhibition within the granular cell layer. These data demonstrate that CUG(exp) transcripts dysregulate MBNL/CELF regulated pathways in the brain and provide mechanistic insight into the CNS effects of other CUG(exp) disorders. Moreover, our demonstration that relatively short CUG(exp) transcripts cause RNA gain-of-function effects and the growing number of antisense transcripts recently reported in mammalian genomes suggest unrecognized toxic RNAs contribute to the pathophysiology of polyglutamine CAG CTG disorders.
Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is a multisystemic disease caused by CTG or CCTG expansion mutations. There is strong evidence that DM1 CUG and DM2 CCUG expansion transcripts sequester muscleblind-like (MBNL) proteins and that loss of MBNL function causes alternative splicing abnormalities that contribute to disease. Because MBNL1 loss is thought to play an important role in disease and localized AAV delivery of MBNL1 partially rescues skeletal muscle pathology in DM mice, there is strong interest in MBNL1 overexpression as a therapeutic strategy. We developed the first transgenic MBNL1 overexpression mouse model (MBNL1-OE) to test the safety and efficacy of multisystemic MBNL1 overexpression. First, we demonstrate that MBNL1 overexpression is generally well-tolerated in skeletal muscle. Second, we show the surprising result that premature shifts in alternative splicing of MBNL1-regulated genes in multiple organ systems are compatible with life and do not cause embryonic lethality. Third, we show for the first time that early and long-term MBNL1 overexpression prevents CUG-induced myotonia, myopathy and alternative splicing abnormalities in DM1 mice. In summary, MBNL1 overexpression may be a valuable strategy for treating the skeletal muscle features of DM.
In the Kii peninsula of Japan, high prevalences of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and parkinsonism-dementia complex have been reported. There are 2 major foci with a high prevalence, which include the southernmost region neighboring the Koza River (Kozagawa and Kushimoto towns in Wakayama prefecture) and the Hohara district (Mie prefecture).
To determine whether the presence of Machado-Joseph disease (MJD, also spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 [SCA3]) among Australian aborigines was caused by a new mutational event or by the introduction of expanded alleles from other populations.
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