RNA gain-of-function in spinocerebellar ataxia type 8

Randy S. Daughters, Daniel L. Tuttle, Wangcai Gao, Yoshio Ikeda, Melinda L. Moseley, Timothy J. Ebner, Maurice S. Swanson, Laura P.W. Ranum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

231 Scopus citations


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 (CUGexp) from the ATXN8OS gene and a nearly pure polyglutamine expansion protein encoded by ATXN8 CAGexp transcripts expressed in the opposite direction. Here, we present three lines of evidence that RNA gain-offunction 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 CUGexp 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 CUGexp 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 CUGexp 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1000600
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009


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