Transcription of expanded microsatellite repeats is associated with a number of human diseases, including myotonic dystrophy (DM), Fuch's endothelial corneal dystrophy, and C9orf72 ALS/FTD (C9ALS/FTD), among others. Eliminating or reducing production of RNA and proteins arising from these expanded loci holds therapeutic benefit. Here, we will test the hypothesis that a deactivated form of the Cas9 enzyme impedes transcription across expanded microsatellite repeats, in cell and animal models of DM and C9ALS/FTD. We have previously observed a repeat length-, PAM-, and strand-dependent reduction in the abundance of repeat- containing RNAs upon targeting dCas9 directly to repeat sequences. Aberrant Muscleblind-dependent splicing patterns were rescued in DM1 cells, and production of RAN peptides characteristic of C9orf72 ALS/FTD cells was drastically decreased. Pathological CUG-containing RNA foci in DM1 mouse model muscle fibers was reduced by dCas9/gRNA delivered by adeno-associated virus. These observations suggest that transcription of microsatellite repeat-containing RNAs is more sensitive to perturbation than transcription of other RNAs, indicating potentially viable strategies for therapeutic intervention. In this proposal, we will assess the extent to which virally delivered dCas9/gRNA complexes can rescue molecular, cellular, and phenotypic features in to established models of DM1 and C9ALS/FTD. The HSALR model, which exhibits myotonia, centralized nuclei, and altered transcriptomes characteristic of human DM1, will be used to study DM. The C9-500 BAC transgenic model, which exhibits upper and lower motor neuron degeneration, altered gait, paralysis, and premature death, will be used to study C9ALS/FTD. Our proposed experiments will establish whether inhibition of toxic repeat transcription can rescue disease phenotypes, and define a window around which reduction of toxic RNA abundance is therapeutic.
Inhibiting the production of toxic RNAs in expanded microsatellite repeat diseases, such as myotonic dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is likely to be therapeutic. Here, we test whether deactivated Cas9 protein, directly targeted to repeat sequences, can inhibit transcription of these sequences, in cell and animal models of myotonic dystrophy and C9ALS/FTD.