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1.  RAN translation and frameshifting as translational challenges at simple repeats of human neurodegenerative disorders 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(19):11849-11864.
Repeat-associated disorders caused by expansions of short sequences have been classified as coding and noncoding and are thought to be caused by protein gain-of-function and RNA gain-of-function mechanisms, respectively. The boundary between such classifications has recently been blurred by the discovery of repeat-associated non-AUG (RAN) translation reported in spinocerebellar ataxia type 8, myotonic dystrophy type 1, fragile X tremor/ataxia syndrome and C9ORF72 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia. This noncanonical translation requires no AUG start codon and can initiate in multiple frames of CAG, CGG and GGGGCC repeats of the sense and antisense strands of disease-relevant transcripts. RNA structures formed by the repeats have been suggested as possible triggers; however, the precise mechanism of the translation initiation remains elusive. Templates containing expansions of microsatellites have also been shown to challenge translation elongation, as frameshifting has been recognized across CAG repeats in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 and Huntington's disease. Determining the critical requirements for RAN translation and frameshifting is essential to decipher the mechanisms that govern these processes. The contribution of unusual translation products to pathogenesis needs to be better understood. In this review, we present current knowledge regarding RAN translation and frameshifting and discuss the proposed mechanisms of translational challenges imposed by simple repeat expansions.
PMCID: PMC4231732  PMID: 25217582
2.  Self-duplexing CUG repeats selectively inhibit mutant huntingtin expression 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(22):10426-10437.
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative genetic disorder caused by the expansion of the CAG repeat in the translated sequence of the HTT gene. This expansion generates a mutant huntingtin protein that contains an abnormally elongated polyglutamine tract, which, together with mutant transcript, causes cellular dysfunction. Currently, there is no curative treatment available to patients suffering from HD; however, the selective inhibition of the mutant allele expression is a promising therapeutic option. In this study, we developed a new class of CAG repeat-targeting silencing reagents that consist of self-duplexing CUG repeats. Self-duplex formation was induced through one or several U-base substitutions. A number of self-duplexing guide-strand-only short interfering RNAs have been tested through transfection into cells derived from HD patients, showing distinct activity profiles. The best reagents were highly discriminatory between the normal and mutant HTT alleles (allele selectivity) and the HTT transcript and other transcripts containing shorter CAG repeats (gene selectivity). We also demonstrated that the self-duplexing CUG repeat short interfering RNAs use the RNA interference pathway to elicit silencing, and repeat-targeting reagents showed similar activity and selectivity when expressed from short hairpin RNA vectors to achieve more durable silencing effects.
PMCID: PMC3905887  PMID: 24038471
3.  An evaluation of oligonucleotide-based therapeutic strategies for polyQ diseases 
RNA interference (RNAi) and antisense strategies provide experimental therapeutic agents for numerous diseases, including polyglutamine (polyQ) disorders caused by CAG repeat expansion. We compared the potential of different oligonucleotide-based strategies for silencing the genes responsible for several polyQ diseases, including Huntington's disease and two spinocerebellar ataxias, type 1 and type 3. The strategies included nonallele-selective gene silencing, gene replacement, allele-selective SNP targeting and CAG repeat targeting.
Using the patient-derived cell culture models of polyQ diseases, we tested various siRNAs, and antisense reagents and assessed their silencing efficiency and allele selectivity. We showed considerable allele discrimination by several SNP targeting siRNAs based on a weak G-G or G-U pairing with normal allele and strong G-C pairing with mutant allele at the site of RISC-induced cleavage. Among the CAG repeat targeting reagents the strongest allele discrimination is achieved by miRNA-like functioning reagents that bind to their targets and inhibit their translation without substantial target cleavage. Also, morpholino analog performs well in mutant and normal allele discrimination but its efficient delivery to cells at low effective concentration still remains a challenge.
Using three cellular models of polyQ diseases and the same experimental setup we directly compared the performance of different oligonucleotide-based treatment strategies that are currently under development. Based on the results obtained by us and others we discussed the advantages and drawbacks of these strategies considering them from several different perspectives. The strategy aimed at nonallele-selective inhibiting of causative gene expression by targeting specific sequence of the implicated gene is the easiest to implement but relevant benefits are still uncertain. The gene replacement strategy that combines the nonallele-selective gene silencing with the expression of the exogenous normal allele is a logical extension of the former and it deserves to be explored further. Both allele-selective RNAi approaches challenge cellular RNA interference machinery to show its ability to discriminate between similar sequences differing in either single base substitutions or repeated sequence length. Although both approaches perform well in allele discrimination most of our efforts are focused on repeat targeting due to its potentially higher universality.
PMCID: PMC3359213  PMID: 22397573
Triplet repeats; Polyglutamine diseases; siRNA; Antisense oligonucleotides; SNP targeting; CAG repeat targeting
4.  Northern blotting analysis of microRNAs, their precursors and RNA interference triggers 
BMC Molecular Biology  2011;12:14.
Numerous microRNAs (miRNAs) have heterogeneous ends resulting from imprecise cleavages by processing nucleases and from various non-templated nucleotide additions. The scale of miRNA end-heterogeneity is best shown by deep sequencing data revealing not only the major miRNA variants but also those that occur in only minute amounts and are unlikely to be of functional importance. All RNA interference (RNAi) technology reagents that are expressed and processed in cells are also exposed to the same machinery generating end-heterogeneity of the released short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or miRNA mimetics.
In this study we have analyzed endogenous and exogenous RNAs in the range of 20-70 nt by high-resolution northern blotting. We have validated the results obtained with northern blotting by comparing them with data derived from miRNA deep sequencing; therefore we have demonstrated the usefulness of the northern blotting technique in the investigation of miRNA biogenesis, as well as in the characterization of RNAi technology reagents.
The conventional northern blotting enhanced to high resolution may be a useful adjunct to other miRNA discovery, detection and characterization methods. It provides quantitative data on distribution of major length variants of abundant endogenous miRNAs, as well as on length heterogeneity of RNAi technology reagents expressed in cells.
PMCID: PMC3080303  PMID: 21481235
5.  Sequence-non-specific effects of RNA interference triggers and microRNA regulators 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(1):1-16.
RNA reagents of diverse lengths and structures, unmodified or containing various chemical modifications are powerful tools of RNA interference and microRNA technologies. These reagents which are either delivered to cells using appropriate carriers or are expressed in cells from suitable vectors often cause unintended sequence-non-specific immune responses besides triggering intended sequence-specific silencing effects. This article reviews the present state of knowledge regarding the cellular sensors of foreign RNA, the signaling pathways these sensors mobilize and shows which specific features of the RNA reagents set the responsive systems on alert. The representative examples of toxic effects caused in the investigated cell lines and tissues by the RNAs of specific types and structures are collected and may be instructive for further studies of sequence-non-specific responses to foreign RNA in human cells.
PMCID: PMC2800214  PMID: 19843612

Results 1-5 (5)