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      Targeted degradation of sense and antisense C9orf72 RNA foci as therapy for ALS and frontotemporal degeneration

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          Abstract

          Expanded hexanucleotide repeats in the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) gene are the most common genetic cause of ALS and frontotemporal degeneration (FTD). Here, we identify nuclear RNA foci containing the hexanucleotide expansion (GGGGCC) in patient cells, including white blood cells, fibroblasts, glia, and multiple neuronal cell types (spinal motor, cortical, hippocampal, and cerebellar neurons). RNA foci are not present in sporadic ALS, familial ALS/FTD caused by other mutations (SOD1, TDP-43, or tau), Parkinson disease, or nonneurological controls. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) are identified that reduce GGGGCC-containing nuclear foci without altering overall C9orf72 RNA levels. By contrast, siRNAs fail to reduce nuclear RNA foci despite marked reduction in overall C9orf72 RNAs. Sustained ASO-mediated lowering of C9orf72 RNAs throughout the CNS of mice is demonstrated to be well tolerated, producing no behavioral or pathological features characteristic of ALS/FTD and only limited RNA expression alterations. Genome-wide RNA profiling identifies an RNA signature in fibroblasts from patients with C9orf72 expansion. ASOs targeting sense strand repeat-containing RNAs do not correct this signature, a failure that may be explained, at least in part, by discovery of abundant RNA foci with C9orf72 repeats transcribed in the antisense (GGCCCC) direction, which are not affected by sense strand-targeting ASOs. Taken together, these findings support a therapeutic approach by ASO administration to reduce hexanucleotide repeat-containing RNAs and raise the potential importance of targeting expanded RNAs transcribed in both directions.

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          Most cited references 56

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          Ubiquitinated TDP-43 in frontotemporal lobar degeneration and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

          Ubiquitin-positive, tau- and alpha-synuclein-negative inclusions are hallmarks of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive inclusions and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Although the identity of the ubiquitinated protein specific to either disorder was unknown, we showed that TDP-43 is the major disease protein in both disorders. Pathologic TDP-43 was hyper-phosphorylated, ubiquitinated, and cleaved to generate C-terminal fragments and was recovered only from affected central nervous system regions, including hippocampus, neocortex, and spinal cord. TDP-43 represents the common pathologic substrate linking these neurodegenerative disorders.
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            Origins and Mechanisms of miRNAs and siRNAs.

            Over the last decade, approximately 20-30 nucleotide RNA molecules have emerged as critical regulators in the expression and function of eukaryotic genomes. Two primary categories of these small RNAs--short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs)--act in both somatic and germline lineages in a broad range of eukaryotic species to regulate endogenous genes and to defend the genome from invasive nucleic acids. Recent advances have revealed unexpected diversity in their biogenesis pathways and the regulatory mechanisms that they access. Our understanding of siRNA- and miRNA-based regulation has direct implications for fundamental biology as well as disease etiology and treatment.
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              Expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in noncoding region of C9ORF72 causes chromosome 9p-linked FTD and ALS.

              Several families have been reported with autosomal-dominant frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), genetically linked to chromosome 9p21. Here, we report an expansion of a noncoding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the gene C9ORF72 that is strongly associated with disease in a large FTD/ALS kindred, previously reported to be conclusively linked to chromosome 9p. This same repeat expansion was identified in the majority of our families with a combined FTD/ALS phenotype and TDP-43-based pathology. Analysis of extended clinical series found the C9ORF72 repeat expansion to be the most common genetic abnormality in both familial FTD (11.7%) and familial ALS (23.5%). The repeat expansion leads to the loss of one alternatively spliced C9ORF72 transcript and to formation of nuclear RNA foci, suggesting multiple disease mechanisms. Our findings indicate that repeat expansion in C9ORF72 is a major cause of both FTD and ALS. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                November 19 2013
                November 19 2013
                October 29 2013
                November 19 2013
                : 110
                : 47
                : E4530-E4539
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1318835110
                3839752
                24170860
                © 2013
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