PMCC PMCC

Search tips
Search criteria

Advanced
Results 1-25 (243424)

Clipboard (0)
None

Related Articles

1.  Enhancement of SMN2 Exon 7 Inclusion by Antisense Oligonucleotides Targeting the Exon 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(4):e73.
Several strategies have been pursued to increase the extent of exon 7 inclusion during splicing of SMN2 (survival of motor neuron 2) transcripts, for eventual therapeutic use in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic neuromuscular disease. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) that target an exon or its flanking splice sites usually promote exon skipping. Here we systematically tested a large number of ASOs with a 2′-O-methoxy-ethyl ribose (MOE) backbone that hybridize to different positions of SMN2 exon 7, and identified several that promote greater exon inclusion, others that promote exon skipping, and still others with complex effects on the accumulation of the two alternatively spliced products. This approach provides positional information about presumptive exonic elements or secondary structures with positive or negative effects on exon inclusion. The ASOs are effective not only in cell-free splicing assays, but also when transfected into cultured cells, where they affect splicing of endogenous SMN transcripts. The ASOs that promote exon 7 inclusion increase full-length SMN protein levels, demonstrating that they do not interfere with mRNA export or translation, despite hybridizing to an exon. Some of the ASOs we identified are sufficiently active to proceed with experiments in SMA mouse models.
Author Summary
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a severe genetic disease that causes motor-neuron degeneration. SMA patients lack a functional SMN1 (survival of motor neuron 1) gene, but they possess an intact SMN2 gene, which though nearly identical to SMN1, is only partially functional. The defect in SMN2 gene expression is at the level of pre-mRNA splicing (skipping of exon 7), and the presence of this gene in all SMA patients makes it an attractive target for potential therapy. Here we have surveyed a large number of antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) that are complementary to different regions of exon 7 in the SMN2 mRNA. A few of these ASOs are able to correct the pre-mRNA splicing defect, presumably because they bind to regions of exon 7 that form RNA structures, or provide protein-binding sites, that normally weaken the recognition of this exon by the splicing machinery in the cell nucleus. We describe optimal ASOs that promote correct expression of SMN2 mRNA and, therefore, normal SMN protein, in cultured cells from SMA patients. These ASOs can now be tested in mouse models of SMA, and may be useful for SMA therapy.
Mutations inSMN1 cause spinal muscular atrophy; a nearly identical gene is not functional, but becomes functional in vitro and in vivo after addition of antisense oligos.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050073
PMCID: PMC1820610  PMID: 17355180
2.  A single administration of morpholino antisense oligomer rescues spinal muscular atrophy in mouse 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(7):1625-1638.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal-recessive disorder characterized by α-motor neuron loss in the spinal cord anterior horn. SMA results from deletion or mutation of the Survival Motor Neuron 1 gene (SMN1) and retention of SMN2. A single nucleotide difference between SMN1 and SMN2 results in exclusion of exon 7 from the majority of SMN2 transcripts, leading to decreased SMN protein levels and development of SMA. A series of splice enhancers and silencers regulate incorporation of SMN2 exon 7; these splice motifs can be blocked with antisense oligomers (ASOs) to alter SMN2 transcript splicing. We have evaluated a morpholino (MO) oligomer against ISS-N1 [HSMN2Ex7D(−10,−29)], and delivered this MO to postnatal day 0 (P0) SMA pups (Smn−/−, SMN2+/+, SMN▵7+/+) by intracerebroventricular (ICV) injection. Survival was increased markedly from 15 days to >100 days. Delayed CNS MO injection has moderate efficacy, and delayed peripheral injection has mild survival advantage, suggesting that early CNS ASO administration is essential for SMA therapy consideration. ICV treatment increased full-length SMN2 transcript as well as SMN protein in neural tissue, but only minimally in peripheral tissue. Interval analysis shows a decrease in alternative splice modification over time. We suggest that CNS increases of SMN will have a major impact on SMA, and an early increase of the SMN level results in correction of motor phenotypes. Finally, the early introduction by intrathecal delivery of MO oligomers is a potential treatment for SMA patients.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr600
PMCID: PMC3298284  PMID: 22186025
3.  A Short Antisense Oligonucleotide Ameliorates Symptoms of Severe Mouse Models of Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
Recent reports underscore the unparalleled potential of antisense-oligonucleotide (ASO)-based approaches to ameliorate various pathological conditions. However, in vivo studies validating the effectiveness of a short ASO (<10-mer) in the context of a human disease have not been performed. One disease with proven amenability to ASO-based therapy is spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). SMA is a neuromuscular disease caused by loss-of-function mutations in the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. Correction of aberrant splicing of the remaining paralog, SMN2, can rescue mouse models of SMA. Here, we report the therapeutic efficacy of an 8-mer ASO (3UP8i) in two severe models of SMA. While 3UP8i modestly improved survival and function in the more severe Taiwanese SMA model, it dramatically increased survival, improved neuromuscular junction pathology, and tempered cardiac deficits in a new, less severe model of SMA. Our results expand the repertoire of ASO-based compounds for SMA therapy, and for the first time, demonstrate the in vivo efficacy of a short ASO in the context of a human disease.
doi:10.1038/mtna.2014.23
PMCID: PMC4121513  PMID: 25004100
antisense oligonucleotide; cardiac; short ASO; skeletal muscle; SMA mouse model; SMN2; spinal muscular atrophy; splicing
4.  Pathological impact of SMN2 mis-splicing in adult SMA mice 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;5(10):1586-1601.
Loss-of-function mutations in SMN1 cause spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a leading genetic cause of infant mortality. The related SMN2 gene expresses suboptimal levels of functional SMN protein, due to a splicing defect. Many SMA patients reach adulthood, and there is also adult-onset (type IV) SMA. There is currently no animal model for adult-onset SMA, and the tissue-specific pathogenesis of post-developmental SMN deficiency remains elusive. Here, we use an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) to exacerbate SMN2 mis-splicing. Intracerebroventricular ASO injection in adult SMN2-transgenic mice phenocopies key aspects of adult-onset SMA, including delayed-onset motor dysfunction and relevant histopathological features. SMN2 mis-splicing increases during late-stage disease, likely accelerating disease progression. Systemic ASO injection in adult mice causes peripheral SMN2 mis-splicing and affects prognosis, eliciting marked liver and heart pathologies, with decreased IGF1 levels. ASO dose–response and time-course studies suggest that only moderate SMN levels are required in the adult central nervous system, and treatment with a splicing-correcting ASO shows a broad therapeutic time window. We describe distinctive pathological features of adult-onset and early-onset SMA.
doi:10.1002/emmm.201302567
PMCID: PMC3799581  PMID: 24014320
adult-onset SMA; pathology; SMN2; spinal muscular atrophy; splicing
5.  Antisense oligonucleotide mediated therapy of spinal muscular atrophy 
Translational neuroscience  2013;4(1):10.2478/s13380-013-0109-2.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality. SMA results from deletions or mutations of survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1), an essential gene. SMN2, a nearly identical copy, can compensate for SMN1 loss if SMN2 exon 7 skipping is prevented. Among the many cis-elements involved in the splicing regulation of SMN exon 7, intronic splicing silencer N1 (ISS-N1) has emerged as the most effective target for an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO)-mediated splicing correction of SMN2 exon 7. Blocking of ISS-N1 by an ASO has been shown to fully restore SMN2 exon 7 inclusion in SMA patient cells as well as in vivo. Here we review how ISS-N1 targeting ASOs that use different chemistries respond differently in the various SMA mouse models. We also compare other ASO-based strategies for therapeutic splicing correction in SMA. Given that substantial progress on ASO-based strategies to promote SMN2 exon 7 inclusion in SMA has been made, and that similar approaches in a growing number of genetic diseases are possible, this report has wide implications.
doi:10.2478/s13380-013-0109-2
PMCID: PMC3832262  PMID: 24265944
Antisense oligonucleotide; splicing; ISS-N1; ASO; SMA; SMN; PMO; MOE
6.  Antisense Oligonucleotides for the Treatment of Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
Human Gene Therapy  2013;24(5):489-498.
Abstract
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive disease affecting ∼1 in 10,000 live births. The most striking component is the loss of α-motor neurons in the ventral horn of the spinal cord, resulting in progressive paralysis and eventually premature death. There is no current treatment paradigm other than supportive care, though the past 15 years has seen a striking advancement in understanding of both SMA genetics and molecular mechanisms. A variety of disease-modifying interventions are rapidly bridging the translational gap from the laboratory to clinical trials, including the application of antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) therapy for the correction of aberrant RNA splicing characteristic of SMA. Survival motor neuron (SMN) is a ubiquitously expressed 38-kD protein. Humans have two genes that produce SMN, SMN1 and SMN2, the former of which is deleted or nonfunctional in the majority of patients with SMA. These two genes are nearly identical with one exception, a C to T transition (C6T) within exon 7 of SMN2. C6T disrupts a modulator of splicing, leading to the exclusion of exon 7 from ∼90% of the mRNA transcript. The resultant truncated Δ7SMN protein does not oligomerize efficiently and is rapidly degraded. SMA can therefore be considered a disease of too little SMN protein. A number of cis-acting splice modifiers have been identified in the region of exon 7, the steric block of which enhances the retention of the exon and a resultant full-length mRNA sequence. ASOs targeted to these splice motifs have shown impressive phenotype rescue in multiple SMA mouse models.
doi:10.1089/hum.2012.225
PMCID: PMC3655628  PMID: 23544870
7.  A short antisense oligonucleotide masking a unique intronic motif prevents skipping of a critical exon in spinal muscular atrophy 
RNA biology  2009;6(3):341-350.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality. Most SMA cases are associated with the low levels of SMN owing to deletion of Survival Motor Neuron 1 (SMN1). SMN2, a nearly identical copy of SMN1, fails to compensate for the loss of SMN1 due to predominant skipping of exon 7. Hence, correction of aberrant splicing of SMN2 exon 7 holds the potential for cure of SMA. Here we report an 8-mer antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) to have a profound stimulatory response on correction of aberrant splicing of SMN2 exon 7 by binding to a unique GC-rich sequence located within intron 7 of SMN2. We confirm that the splicing-switching ability of this short ASO comes with a high degree of specificity and reduced off-target effect compared to larger ASOs targeting the same sequence. We further demonstrate that a single low nanomolar dose of this 8-mer ASO substantially increases the levels of SMN and a host of factors including Gemin 2, Gemin 8, ZPR1, hnRNP Q and Tra2-β1 known to be down-regulated in SMA. Our findings underscore the advantages and unmatched potential of very short ASOs in splicing modulation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2734876  PMID: 19430205
survival motor neuron (SMN); SMN1; SMN2; alternative splicing; intron 7; exon 7; ISS-N1; GC-rich sequence; antisense oligonucleotide (ASO); 8-mer ASO; SMA
8.  Generation and Characterization of a genetic zebrafish model of SMA carrying the human SMN2 gene 
Background
Animal models of human diseases are essential as they allow analysis of the disease process at the cellular level and can advance therapeutics by serving as a tool for drug screening and target validation. Here we report the development of a complete genetic model of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in the vertebrate zebrafish to complement existing zebrafish, mouse, and invertebrate models and show its utility for testing compounds that alter SMN2 splicing.
Results
The human motoneuron disease SMA is caused by low levels, as opposed to a complete absence, of the survival motor neuron protein (SMN). To generate a true model of SMA in zebrafish, we have generated a transgenic zebrafish expressing the human SMN2 gene (hSMN2), which produces only a low amount of full-length SMN, and crossed this onto the smn-/- background. We show that human SMN2 is spliced in zebrafish as it is in humans and makes low levels of SMN protein. Moreover, we show that an antisense oligonucleotide that enhances correct hSMN2 splicing increases full-length hSMN RNA in this model. When we placed this transgene on the smn mutant background it rescued the neuromuscular presynaptic SV2 defect that occurs in smn mutants and increased their survival.
Conclusions
We have generated a transgenic fish carrying the human hSMN2 gene. This gene is spliced in fish as it is in humans and mice suggesting a conserved splicing mechanism in these vertebrates. Moreover, antisense targeting of an intronic splicing silencer site increased the amount of full length SMN generated from this transgene. Having this transgene on the smn mutant fish rescued the presynaptic defect and increased survival. This model of zebrafish SMA has all of the components of human SMA and can thus be used to understand motoneuron dysfunction in SMA, can be used as an vivo test for drugs or antisense approaches that increase full-length SMN, and can be developed for drug screening.
doi:10.1186/1750-1326-6-24
PMCID: PMC3080329  PMID: 21443782
9.  Decreasing Disease Severity in Symptomatic, Smn−/−;SMN2+/+, Spinal Muscular Atrophy Mice Following scAAV9-SMN Delivery 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;23(3):330-335.
Abstract
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder, is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality. SMA is caused by the homozygous loss of Survival Motor Neuron-1 (SMN1). In humans, a nearly identical copy gene is present, SMN2. SMN2 is retained in all SMA patients and encodes the same protein as SMN1. However, SMN1 and SMN2 differ by a silent C-to-T transition at the 5’ end of exon 7, causing alternative splicing of SMN2 transcripts and low levels of full-length SMN. SMA is monogenic and therefore well suited for gene-replacement strategies. Recently, self-complementary adeno-associated virus (scAAV) vectors have been used to deliver the SMN cDNA to an animal model of disease, the SMNΔ7 mouse. In this study, we examine a severe model of SMA, Smn–/–;SMN2+/+, to determine whether gene replacement is viable in a model in which disease development begins in utero. Using two delivery paradigms, intracerebroventricular injections and intravenous injections, we delivered scAAV9-SMN and demonstrated a two to four fold increase in survival, in addition to improving many of the phenotypic parameters of the model. This represents the longest extension in survival for this severe model for any therapeutic intervention and suggests that postsymptomatic treatment of SMA may lead to significant improvement of disease severity.
Glascock and colleagues investigate gene replacement of survival motor neuron-2 (SMN2) in a mouse model of severe spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in which disease development begins in utero. Self-complementary adeno-associated vector type 9 (AAV9) encoding SMN is delivered via intracerebroventricular or intravenous injection, resulting in a 2- to 4-fold increase in survival and improving many SMA phenotypic parameters.
doi:10.1089/hum.2011.166
PMCID: PMC3300100  PMID: 22029744
10.  A Negatively Acting Bifunctional RNA Increases Survival Motor Neuron Both In Vitro and In Vivo 
Human Gene Therapy  2008;19(11):1307-1315.
Abstract
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder and is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality. SMA is caused by the loss of survival motor neuron-1 (SMN1). In humans, a nearly identical copy gene is present called SMN2, but this gene cannot compensate for the loss of SMN1 because of a single silent nucleotide difference in SMN2 exon 7. This single-nucleotide difference attenuates an exonic splice enhancer, resulting in the production of an alternatively spliced isoform lacking exon 7, which is essential for protein function. SMN2, however, is a critical disease modifier and is an outstanding target for therapeutic intervention because all SMA patients retain SMN2 and SMN2 maintains the same coding sequence as SMN1. Therefore, compounds or molecules that increase SMN2 exon 7 inclusion hold great promise for SMA therapeutics. Bifunctional RNAs have been previously used to increase SMN protein levels and derive their name from the presence of two domains: an antisense RNA sequence specific to the target RNA and an untethered RNA segment that serves as a binding platform for splicing factors. This study was designed to develop negatively acting bifunctional RNAs that recruit hnRNPA1 to exon 8 and block the general splicing machinery from the exon 8. By blocking the downstream splice site, this could competitively favor the inclusion of SMN exon 7 and therefore increase full-length SMN production. Here we identify a bifunctional RNA that stimulated full-length SMN expression in a variety of cell-based assays including SMA patient fibroblasts. Importantly, this molecule was also able to induce SMN expression in a previously described mouse model of SMA and demonstrates a novel therapeutic approach for SMA as well as a variety of diseases caused by a defect in splicing.
doi:10.1089/hum.2008.067
PMCID: PMC2940461  PMID: 19848583
11.  Restoration of Full-Length SMN Promoted by Adenoviral Vectors Expressing RNA Antisense Oligonucleotides Embedded in U7 snRNAs 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8204.
Background
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive disease that leads to specific loss of motor neurons. It is caused by deletions or mutations of the survival of motor neuron 1 gene (SMN1). The remaining copy of the gene, SMN2, generates only low levels of the SMN protein due to a mutation in SMN2 exon 7 that leads to exon skipping.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To correct SMN2 splicing, we use Adenovirus type 5–derived vectors to express SMN2-antisense U7 snRNA oligonucleotides targeting the SMN intron 7/exon 8 junction. Infection of SMA type I–derived patient fibroblasts with these vectors resulted in increased levels of exon 7 inclusion, upregulating the expression of SMN to similar levels as in non–SMA control cells.
Conclusions/Significance
These results show that Adenovirus type 5–derived vectors delivering U7 antisense oligonucleotides can efficiently restore full-length SMN protein and suggest that the viral vector-mediated oligonucleotide application may be a suitable therapeutic approach to counteract SMA.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008204
PMCID: PMC2781471  PMID: 19997596
12.  The Smn-Independent Beneficial Effects of Trichostatin A on an Intermediate Mouse Model of Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101225.
Spinal muscular atrophy is an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disease characterized by the progressive loss of alpha motor neurons in the spinal cord. Trichostatin A (TSA) is a histone deacetylase inhibitor with beneficial effects in spinal muscular atrophy mouse models that carry the human SMN2 transgene. It is currently unclear whether TSA specifically targets the SMN2 gene or whether other genes respond to TSA and in turn provide neuroprotection in SMA mice. We have taken advantage of the Smn2B/- mouse model that does not harbor the human SMN2 transgene, to test the hypothesis that TSA has its beneficial effects through a non-SMN mediated pathway. TSA increased the median lifespan of Smn2B/- mice from twenty days to eight weeks. As well, there was a significant attenuation of weight loss and improved motor behavior. Pen test and righting reflex both showed significant improvement, and motor neurons in the spinal cord of Smn2B/- mice were protected from degeneration. Both the size and maturity of neuromuscular junctions were significantly improved in TSA treated Smn2B/- mice. Of interest, TSA treatment did not increase the levels of Smn protein in mouse embryonic fibroblasts or myoblasts obtained from the Smn2B/- mice. In addition, no change in the level of Smn transcripts or protein in the brain or spinal cord of TSA-treated SMA model mice was observed. Furthermore, TSA did not increase Smn protein levels in the hind limb muscle, heart, or liver of Smn2B/- mice. We therefore conclude that TSA likely exerts its effects independent of the endogenous mouse Smn gene. As such, identification of the pathways regulated by TSA in the Smn2B/- mice could lead to the development of novel therapeutics for treating SMA.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101225
PMCID: PMC4077776  PMID: 24984019
13.  Genetic and expression studies of SMN2 gene in Russian patients with spinal muscular atrophy type II and III 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:96.
Background
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA type I, II and III) is an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder caused by mutations in the survival motor neuron gene (SMN1). SMN2 is a centromeric copy gene that has been characterized as a major modifier of SMA severity. SMA type I patients have one or two SMN2 copies while most SMA type II patients carry three SMN2 copies and SMA III patients have three or four SMN2 copies. The SMN1 gene produces a full-length transcript (FL-SMN) while SMN2 is only able to produce a small portion of the FL-SMN because of a splice mutation which results in the production of abnormal SMNΔ7 mRNA.
Methods
In this study we performed quantification of the SMN2 gene copy number in Russian patients affected by SMA type II and III (42 and 19 patients, respectively) by means of real-time PCR. Moreover, we present two families consisting of asymptomatic carriers of a homozygous absence of the SMN1 gene. We also developed a novel RT-qPCR-based assay to determine the FL-SMN/SMNΔ7 mRNA ratio as SMA biomarker.
Results
Comparison of the SMN2 copy number and clinical features revealed a significant correlation between mild clinical phenotype (SMA type III) and presence of four copies of the SMN2 gene. In both asymptomatic cases we found an increased number of SMN2 copies in the healthy carriers and a biallelic SMN1 absence. Furthermore, the novel assay revealed a difference between SMA patients and healthy controls.
Conclusions
We suggest that the SMN2 gene copy quantification in SMA patients could be used as a prognostic tool for discrimination between the SMA type II and SMA type III diagnoses, whereas the FL-SMN/SMNΔ7 mRNA ratio could be a useful biomarker for detecting changes during SMA pharmacotherapy.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-12-96
PMCID: PMC3146920  PMID: 21762474
14.  Electrophysiological biomarkers in spinal muscular atrophy: proof of concept 
Objective
Preclinical therapies that restore survival motor neuron (SMN) protein levels can dramatically extend survival in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) mouse models. Biomarkers are needed to effectively translate these promising therapies to clinical trials. Our objective was to investigate electrophysiological biomarkers of compound muscle action potential (CMAP), motor unit number estimation (MUNE) and electromyography (EMG) using an SMA mouse model.
Methods
Sciatic CMAP, MUNE, and EMG were obtained in SMNΔ7 mice at ages 3–13 days and at 21 days in mice with SMN selectively reduced in motor neurons (ChATCre). To investigate these measures as biomarkers of treatment response, measurements were obtained in SMNΔ7 mice treated with antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) or gene therapy.
Results
CMAP was significantly reduced in SMNΔ7 mice at days 6–13 (P < 0.01), and MUNE was reduced at days 7–13 (P < 0.01). Fibrillations were present on EMG in SMNΔ7 mice but not controls (P = 0.02). Similar findings were seen at 21 days in ChATCre mice. MUNE in ASO-treated SMNΔ7 mice were similar to controls at day 12 and 30. CMAP reduction persisted in ASO-treated SMNΔ7 mice at day 12 but was corrected at day 30. Similarly, CMAP and MUNE responses were corrected with gene therapy to restore SMN.
Interpretation
These studies confirm features of preserved neuromuscular function in the early postnatal period and subsequent motor unit loss in SMNΔ7 mice. SMN restoring therapies result in preserved MUNE and gradual repair of CMAP responses. This provides preclinical evidence for the utilization of CMAP and MUNE as biomarkers in future SMA clinical trials.
doi:10.1002/acn3.23
PMCID: PMC3914317  PMID: 24511555
15.  Electrophysiological Biomarkers in Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Preclinical Proof of Concept 
Objective
Preclinical therapies that restore survival motor neuron (SMN) protein levels can dramatically extend survival in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) mouse models. Biomarkers are needed to effectively translate these promising therapies to clinical trials. Our objective was to investigate electrophysiological biomarkers of compound muscle action potential (CMAP), motor unit number estimation (MUNE) and electromyography (EMG) using an SMA mouse model.
Methods
Sciatic CMAP, MUNE, and EMG were obtained in SMNΔ7 mice at ages 3-13 days and at 21 days in mice with SMN selectively reduced in motor neurons (ChATCre). To investigate these measures as biomarkers of treatment response, measurements were obtained in SMNΔ7 mice treated with antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) or gene therapy.
Results
CMAP was significantly reduced in SMNΔ7 mice at days 6-13 (p<0.01), and MUNE was reduced at days 7-13 (p<0.01). Fibrillations were present on EMG in SMNΔ7 mice but not controls (p=0.02). Similar findings were seen at 21 days in ChATCre mice. MUNE in ASO-treated SMNΔ7 mice were similar to controls at day 12 and 30. CMAP reduction persisted in ASO-treated SMNΔ7 mice at day 12 but was corrected at day 30. Similarly, CMAP and MUNE responses were corrected with gene therapy to restore SMN.
Interpretation
These studies confirm features of preserved neuromuscular function in the early postnatal period and subsequent motor unit loss in SMNΔ7 mice. SMN restoring therapies result in preserved MUNE and gradual repair of CMAP responses. This provides preclinical evidence for the utilization of CMAP and MUNE as biomarkers in future SMA clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3914317  PMID: 24511555
16.  Splicing of a Critical Exon of Human Survival Motor Neuron Is Regulated by a Unique Silencer Element Located in the Last Intron 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(4):1333-1346.
Humans have two nearly identical copies of the Survival Motor Neuron (SMN) gene, SMN1 and SMN2. In spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), SMN2 is not able to compensate for the loss of SMN1 due to exclusion of exon 7. Here we describe a novel inhibitory element located immediately downstream of the 5′ splice site in intron 7. We call this element intronic splicing silencer N1 (ISS-N1). Deletion of ISS-N1 promoted exon 7 inclusion in mRNAs derived from the SMN2 minigene. Underlining the dominant role of ISS-N1 in exon 7 skipping, abrogation of a number of positive cis elements was tolerated when ISS-N1 was deleted. Confirming the silencer function of ISS-N1, an antisense oligonucleotide against ISS-N1 restored exon 7 inclusion in mRNAs derived from the SMN2 minigene or from endogenous SMN2. Consistently, this oligonucleotide increased the levels of SMN protein in SMA patient-derived cells that carry only the SMN2 gene. Our findings underscore for the first time the profound impact of an evolutionarily nonconserved intronic element on SMN2 exon 7 splicing. Considering that oligonucleotides annealing to intronic sequences do not interfere with exon-junction complex formation or mRNA transport and translation, ISS-N1 provides a very specific and efficient therapeutic target for antisense oligonucleotide-mediated correction of SMN2 splicing in SMA.
doi:10.1128/MCB.26.4.1333-1346.2006
PMCID: PMC1367187  PMID: 16449646
17.  Modeling Spinal Muscular Atrophy in Drosophila 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(9):e3209.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a recessive hereditary neurodegenerative disease in humans, has been linked to mutations in the survival motor neuron (SMN) gene. SMA patients display early onset lethality coupled with motor neuron loss and skeletal muscle atrophy. We used Drosophila, which encodes a single SMN ortholog, survival motor neuron (Smn), to model SMA, since reduction of Smn function leads to defects that mimic the SMA pathology in humans. Here we show that a normal neuromuscular junction (NMJ) structure depends on SMN expression and that SMN concentrates in the post-synaptic NMJ regions. We conducted a screen for genetic modifiers of an Smn phenotype using the Exelixis collection of transposon-induced mutations, which affects approximately 50% of the Drosophila genome. This screen resulted in the recovery of 27 modifiers, thereby expanding the genetic circuitry of Smn to include several genes not previously known to be associated with this locus. Among the identified modifiers was wishful thinking (wit), a type II BMP receptor, which was shown to alter the Smn NMJ phenotype. Further characterization of two additional members of the BMP signaling pathway, Mothers against dpp (Mad) and Daughters against dpp (Dad), also modify the Smn NMJ phenotype. The NMJ defects caused by loss of Smn function can be ameliorated by increasing BMP signals, suggesting that increased BMP activity in SMA patients may help to alleviate symptoms of the disease. These results confirm that our genetic approach is likely to identify bona fide modulators of SMN activity, especially regarding its role at the neuromuscular junction, and as a consequence, may identify putative SMA therapeutic targets.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003209
PMCID: PMC2527655  PMID: 18791638
18.  The DcpS inhibitor RG3039 improves motor function in SMA mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(20):4074-4083.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is caused by mutations of the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene, retention of the survival motor neuron 2 (SMN2) gene and insufficient expression of full-length survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. Quinazolines increase SMN2 promoter activity and inhibit the ribonucleic acid scavenger enzyme DcpS. The quinazoline derivative RG3039 has advanced to early phase clinical trials. In preparation for efficacy studies in SMA patients, we investigated the effects of RG3039 in severe SMA mice. Here, we show that RG3039 distributed to central nervous system tissues where it robustly inhibited DcpS enzyme activity, but minimally activated SMN expression or the assembly of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins. Nonetheless, treated SMA mice showed a dose-dependent increase in survival, weight and motor function. This was associated with improved motor neuron somal and neuromuscular junction synaptic innervation and function and increased muscle size. RG3039 also enhanced survival of conditional SMA mice in which SMN had been genetically restored to motor neurons. As this systemically delivered drug may have therapeutic benefits that extend beyond motor neurons, it could act additively with SMN-restoring therapies delivered directly to the central nervous system such as antisense oligonucleotides or gene therapy.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt257
PMCID: PMC3781637  PMID: 23727836
19.  Tetracyclines That Promote SMN2 Exon 7 Splicing as Therapeutics for Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
There is at present no cure or effective therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a neurodegenerative disease that is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality. SMA usually results from loss of the SMN1 (survival of motor neuron 1) gene, which leads to selective motor neuron degeneration. SMN2 is nearly identical to SMN1 but has a nucleotide replacement that causes exon 7 skipping, resulting in a truncated, unstable version of the SMA protein. SMN2 is present in all SMA patients, and correcting SMN2 splicing is a promising approach for SMA therapy. We identified a tetracycline-like compound, PTK-SMA1, which stimulates exon 7 splicing and increases SMN protein levels in vitro and in vivo in mice. Unlike previously identified molecules that stimulate SMN production via SMN2 promoter activation or undefined mechanisms, PTK-SMA1 is a unique therapeutic candidate in that it acts by directly stimulating splicing of exon 7. Synthetic small-molecule compounds such as PTK-SMA1 offer an alternative to antisense oligonucleotide therapies that are being developed as therapeutics for a number of disease-associated splicing defects.
doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3000208
PMCID: PMC2818805  PMID: 20161659
20.  Delivery of a read-through inducing compound, TC007, lessens the severity of a spinal muscular atrophy animal model 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(20):3906-3913.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality and is caused by the loss of a functional SMN1 gene. In humans, there exists a nearly-identical copy gene known as SMN2 that encodes an identical protein as SMN1, but differs by a silent C to T transition within exon 7. This single nucleotide difference produces an alternatively spliced isoform, SMNΔ7, which encodes a rapidly degraded protein. The absence of the short peptide encoded by SMN exon 7 is critical in the disease development process; however, heterologous sequences can partially compensate for the SMN exon 7 peptide in several cellular assays. Consistent with this, aminoglycosides, compounds that can suppress efficient recognition of stop codons, resulted in significantly increased levels of SMN protein in SMA patient fibroblasts. We now examine the potential therapeutic capabilities of a novel aminoglycoside, TC007. In an intermediate SMA model (Smn−/−; SMN2+/+; SMNΔ7), when delivered directly to the central nervous system (CNS), TC007 induces SMN in both the brain and spinal cord, significantly increases lifespan (∼30%) and increases ventral horn cell number, consistent with its ability to increase SMN levels in induced pluripotent stem cell-derived human SMA motor neuron cultures. Collectively, these experiments are the first in vivo examination of therapeutics for SMA designed to induce read-through of the SMNΔ7 stop codon to show increased benefit by direct administration to the CNS.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddp333
PMCID: PMC2748896  PMID: 19625298
21.  A SMN missense mutation complements SMN2 restoring snRNPs and rescuing SMA mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(12):2215-2229.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease. Loss of the survival motor neuron (SMN1) gene, in the presence of the SMN2 gene causes SMA. SMN functions in snRNP assembly in all cell types, however, it is unclear how this function results in specifically motor neuron cell death. Lack of endogenous mouse SMN (Smn) in mice results in embryonic lethality. Introduction of two copies of human SMN2 results in a mouse with severe SMA, while one copy of SMN2 is insufficient to overcome embryonic lethality. We show that SMN(A111G), an allele capable of snRNP assembly, can rescue mice that lack Smn and contain either one or two copies of SMN2 (SMA mice). The correction of SMA in these animals was directly correlated with snRNP assembly activity in spinal cord, as was correction of snRNA levels. These data support snRNP assembly as being the critical function affected in SMA and suggests that the levels of snRNPs are critical to motor neurons. Furthermore, SMN(A111G) cannot rescue Smn−/− mice without SMN2 suggesting that both SMN(A111G) and SMN from SMN2 undergo intragenic complementation in vivo to function in heteromeric complexes that have greater function than either allele alone. The oligomer composed of limiting full-length SMN and SMN(A111G) has substantial snRNP assembly activity. Also, the SMN(A2G) and SMN(A111G) alleles in vivo did not complement each other leading to the possibility that these mutations could affect the same function.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddp157
PMCID: PMC2685758  PMID: 19329542
22.  Improved Antisense Oligonucleotide Design to Suppress Aberrant SMN2 Gene Transcript Processing: Towards a Treatment for Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62114.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is caused by loss of the Survival Motor Neuron 1 (SMN1) gene, resulting in reduced SMN protein. Humans possess the additional SMN2 gene (or genes) that does produce low level of full length SMN, but cannot adequately compensate for loss of SMN1 due to aberrant splicing. The majority of SMN2 gene transcripts lack exon 7 and the resultant SMNΔ7 mRNA is translated into an unstable and non-functional protein. Splice intervention therapies to promote exon 7 retention and increase amounts of full-length SMN2 transcript offer great potential as a treatment for SMA patients. Several splice silencing motifs in SMN2 have been identified as potential targets for antisense oligonucleotide mediated splice modification. A strong splice silencer is located downstream of exon 7 in SMN2 intron 7. Antisense oligonucleotides targeting this motif promoted SMN2 exon 7 retention in the mature SMN2 transcripts, with increased SMN expression detected in SMA fibroblasts. We report here systematic optimisation of phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligonucleotides (PMO) that promote exon 7 retention to levels that rescued the phenotype in a severe mouse model of SMA after intracerebroventricular delivery. Furthermore, the PMO gives the longest survival reported to date after a single dosing by ICV.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062114
PMCID: PMC3632594  PMID: 23630626
23.  Dysregulation of ubiquitin homeostasis and β-catenin signaling promote spinal muscular atrophy 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(4):1821-1834.
The autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) results from low levels of survival motor neuron (SMN) protein; however, it is unclear how reduced SMN promotes SMA development. Here, we determined that ubiquitin-dependent pathways regulate neuromuscular pathology in SMA. Using mouse models of SMA, we observed widespread perturbations in ubiquitin homeostasis, including reduced levels of ubiquitin-like modifier activating enzyme 1 (UBA1). SMN physically interacted with UBA1 in neurons, and disruption of Uba1 mRNA splicing was observed in the spinal cords of SMA mice exhibiting disease symptoms. Pharmacological or genetic suppression of UBA1 was sufficient to recapitulate an SMA-like neuromuscular pathology in zebrafish, suggesting that UBA1 directly contributes to disease pathogenesis. Dysregulation of UBA1 and subsequent ubiquitination pathways led to β-catenin accumulation, and pharmacological inhibition of β-catenin robustly ameliorated neuromuscular pathology in zebrafish, Drosophila, and mouse models of SMA. UBA1-associated disruption of β-catenin was restricted to the neuromuscular system in SMA mice; therefore, pharmacological inhibition of β-catenin in these animals failed to prevent systemic pathology in peripheral tissues and organs, indicating fundamental molecular differences between neuromuscular and systemic SMA pathology. Our data indicate that SMA-associated reduction of UBA1 contributes to neuromuscular pathogenesis through disruption of ubiquitin homeostasis and subsequent β-catenin signaling, highlighting ubiquitin homeostasis and β-catenin as potential therapeutic targets for SMA.
doi:10.1172/JCI71318
PMCID: PMC3973095  PMID: 24590288
24.  The contribution of mouse models to understanding the pathogenesis of spinal muscular atrophy 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2011;4(4):457-467.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which is caused by inactivating mutations in the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene, is characterized by loss of lower motor neurons in the spinal cord. The gene encoding SMN is very highly conserved in evolution, allowing the disease to be modeled in a range of species. The similarities in anatomy and physiology to the human neuromuscular system, coupled with the ease of genetic manipulation, make the mouse the most suitable model for exploring the basic pathogenesis of motor neuron loss and for testing potential treatments. Therapies that increase SMN levels, either through direct viral delivery or by enhancing full-length SMN protein expression from the SMN1 paralog, SMN2, are approaching the translational stage of development. It is therefore timely to consider the role of mouse models in addressing aspects of disease pathogenesis that are most relevant to SMA therapy. Here, we review evidence suggesting that the apparent selective vulnerability of motor neurons to SMN deficiency is relative rather than absolute, signifying that therapies will need to be delivered systemically. We also consider evidence from mouse models suggesting that SMN has its predominant action on the neuromuscular system in early postnatal life, during a discrete phase of development. Data from these experiments suggest that the timing of therapy to increase SMN levels might be crucial. The extent to which SMN is required for the maintenance of motor neurons in later life and whether augmenting its levels could treat degenerative motor neuron diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), requires further exploration.
doi:10.1242/dmm.007245
PMCID: PMC3124050  PMID: 21708901
25.  A Multi-Exon-Skipping Detection Assay Reveals Surprising Diversity of Splice Isoforms of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Genes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49595.
Humans have two near identical copies of Survival Motor Neuron gene: SMN1 and SMN2. Loss of SMN1 coupled with the predominant skipping of SMN2 exon 7 causes spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a neurodegenerative disease. SMA patient cells devoid of SMN1 provide a powerful system to examine splicing pattern of various SMN2 exons. Until now, similar system to examine splicing of SMN1 exons was unavailable. We have recently screened several patient cell lines derived from various diseases, including SMA, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Batten disease. Here we report a Batten disease cell line that lacks functional SMN2, as an ideal system to examine pre-mRNA splicing of SMN1. We employ a multiple-exon-skipping detection assay (MESDA) to capture simultaneously skipping of multiple exons. Our results show surprising diversity of splice isoforms and reveal novel splicing events that include skipping of exon 4 and co-skipping of three adjacent exons of SMN. Contrary to the general belief, MESDA captured oxidative-stress induced skipping of SMN1 exon 5 in several cell types, including non-neuronal cells. We further demonstrate that the predominant SMN2 exon 7 skipping induced by oxidative stress is modulated by a combinatorial control that includes promoter sequence, endogenous context, and the weak splice sites. We also show that an 8-mer antisense oligonucleotide blocking a recently described GC-rich sequence prevents SMN2 exon 7 skipping under the conditions of oxidative stress. Our findings bring new insight into splicing regulation of an essential housekeeping gene linked to neurodegeneration and infant mortality.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049595
PMCID: PMC3501452  PMID: 23185376

Results 1-25 (243424)