Allele-specific silencing of mutant Huntington's disease gene.


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12-20-08 08:00 AM
Allele-specific silencing of mutant Huntington's disease gene.
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Allele-specific silencing of mutant Huntington's disease gene.

J Neurochem. 2009 Jan;108(1):82-90

Authors: Zhang Y, Engelman J, Friedlander RM

Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal-dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by a poly-glutamine expansion in huntingtin, the protein encoded by the HD gene. PolyQ-expanded huntingtin is toxic to neurons, especially the medium spiny neurons of the striatum. At the same time, wild-type huntingtin has important - indeed essential - protective functions. Any effective molecular therapy must preserve the expression of wild-type huntingtin, while silencing the mutant allele. We hypothesized that an appropriate siRNA molecule would display the requisite specificity and efficacy. As RNA interference is incapable of distinguishing among alleles with varying numbers of CAG (glutamine) codons, another strategy is needed. We used HD fibroblasts in which the pathogenic mutation is linked to a polymorphic site: the Delta2642 deletion of one of four tandem GAG triplets. We silenced expression of the harmful Delta2642-marked polyQ-expanded huntingtin without compromising synthesis of its wild-type counterpart. Following this success in HD fibroblasts, we obtained similar results with neuroblastoma cells expressing both wild-type and mutant HD genes. As opposed to the effect of depleting wild-type huntingtin, specifically silencing the mutant species actually lowered caspase-3 activation and protected HD cells under stress conditions. These findings have therapeutic implications not only for HD, but also for other autosomal dominant diseases. This approach has great promise: it may lead to personalized genetic therapy, a holy grail in contemporary medicine.

PMID: 19094060 [PubMed - in process]