Spt4 selectively regulates the expression of C9orf72 sense and antisense mutant transcripts

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Science  12 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6300, pp. 708-712
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf7791

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Targeting three defects with one strategy

The neurodegenerative diseases amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia are most commonly caused by a mutation in the C9orf72 gene. The mutation is an expanded hexanucleotide repeat in a noncoding region. The expanded repeat produces sense and antisense RNA transcripts, which accumulate in patient cells and appear to sequester RNA-binding proteins. The sense and antisense transcripts are also translated into dipeptide repeat proteins, which are aggregation-prone and accumulate in the brain and spinal cord. Last, loss of function from reduced expression of C9orf72 in neurons and glia could contribute to the disease. Kramer et al. targeted both sense and antisense repeats by blocking a single gene called SPT4, which mitigated degeneration in human cells by reducing all three types of pathologies.

Science, this issue p. 708


An expanded hexanucleotide repeat in C9orf72 causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia (c9FTD/ALS). Therapeutics are being developed to target RNAs containing the expanded repeat sequence (GGGGCC); however, this approach is complicated by the presence of antisense strand transcription of expanded GGCCCC repeats. We found that targeting the transcription elongation factor Spt4 selectively decreased production of both sense and antisense expanded transcripts, as well as their translated dipeptide repeat (DPR) products, and also mitigated degeneration in animal models. Knockdown of SUPT4H1, the human Spt4 ortholog, similarly decreased production of sense and antisense RNA foci, as well as DPR proteins, in patient cells. Therapeutic targeting of a single factor to eliminate c9FTD/ALS pathological features offers advantages over approaches that require targeting sense and antisense repeats separately.

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