triplet repeat expansion

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Mende-Mueller, L. M., T. Toneff, et al. (2001). "Tissue-specific proteolysis of Huntingtin (htt) in human brain: evidence of enhanced levels of N- and C-terminal htt fragments in Huntington's disease striatum." J Neurosci 21(6): 1830-7.
Proteolysis of mutant huntingtin (htt) has been hypothesized to occur in Huntington's disease (HD) brains. Therefore, this in vivo study examined htt fragments in cortex and striatum of adult HD and control human brains by Western blots, using domain-specific anti-htt antibodies that recognize N- and C-terminal domains of htt (residues 181-810 and 2146-2541, respectively), as well as the 17 residues at the N terminus of htt. On the basis of the patterns of htt fragments observed, different "protease-susceptible domains" were identified for proteolysis of htt in cortex compared with striatum, suggesting that htt undergoes tissue-specific proteolysis. In cortex, htt proteolysis occurs within two different N-terminal domains, termed protease-susceptible domains "A" and "B." However, in striatum, a different pattern of fragments indicated that proteolysis of striatal htt occurred within a C-terminal domain termed "C," as well as within the N-terminal domain region designated "A". Importantly, striatum from HD brains showed elevated levels of 40-50 kDa N-terminal and 30-50 kDa C-terminal fragments compared with that of controls. Increased levels of these htt fragments may occur from a combination of enhanced production or retarded degradation of fragments. Results also demonstrated tissue-specific ubiquitination of certain htt N-terminal fragments in striatum compared with cortex. Moreover, expansions of the triplet-repeat domain of the IT15 gene encoding htt was confirmed for the HD tissue samples studied. Thus, regulated tissue-specific proteolysis and ubiquitination of htt occur in human HD brains. These results suggest that the role of huntingtin proteolysis should be explored in the pathogenic mechanisms of HD.

McEwan, I. J. (2001). "Structural and functional alterations in the androgen receptor in spinal bulbar muscular atrophy." Biochem Soc Trans 29(2): 222-7.
The androgen receptor is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily, and regulates gene expression in response to the steroid hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Mutations in the receptor have been correlated with a diverse range of clinical conditions, including androgen insensitivity, prostate cancer and spinal bulbar muscular atrophy, a neuromuscular degenerative condition. The latter is caused by expansion of a polyglutamine repeat within the N-terminal domain of the receptor. Thus the androgen receptor is one of a growing number of neurodegenerative disease-associated proteins, including huntingtin (Huntington's disease), ataxin-1 (spinocerebellar ataxia, type 1) and ataxin-3 (spinocerebellar ataxia, type 3), which show expansion of CAG triplet repeats. Although widely studied, the functions of huntingtin, ataxin-1 and ataxin-3 remain unknown. The androgen receptor, which has a well-recognized function in gene regulation, provides a unique opportunity to investigate the functional significance of poly(amino acid) repeats in normal and disease states.

Vuillaume, I., P. Meynieu, et al. (2000). "Absence of unidentified CAG repeat expansion in patients with Huntington's disease-like phenotype." J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 68(5): 672-5.
Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expanded (CAG)n repeat on the huntingtin gene. It is characterised by motor, psychiatric and cognitive disturbances. Diagnosis can be confirmed by direct genetic testing, which is highly sensitive and specific and is now considered definitive. This study focused on 21 patients presenting with a clinical phenotype showing strong similarity to HD, but who do not have an expanded CAG in the huntingtin gene. However, other possible diagnoses could be evoked for most of them. Seven patients (3.5% of our cohort) could be considered as phenocopies of HD with no alternative diagnosis. Samples were screened for other triplet repeat diseases with similar presentation (DRPLA, SCA-1, SCA-2, SCA-3, SCA-6, and SCA-7) and were all negative. The repeat expansion detection technique (RED) was used to detect uncloned CAG repeat expansions and samples were also analysed by polymerase chain reaction for expansions of the polymorphic CAG-ERDA-1 and CTG18.1 trinucleotide repeats. RED expansion (>40 repeats) was detected in only one patient. The results suggest that unstable CAG/CTG repeat expansions corresponding to known or unknown sequences are not involved in the aetiology of HD-like disorders. It is hypothesised that some of these phenocopies could correspond to mutations in other unidentified genes with other unstable repeats (different from CAG) or in unknown genes with other mutations.

Squitieri, F., A. Berardelli, et al. (2000). "Atypical movement disorders in the early stages of Huntington's disease: clinical and genetic analysis." Clin Genet 58(1): 50-6.
Huntington's disease (HD) is notably difficult to diagnose in the early stages. One reason is that the early clinical manifestations of HD vary widely and sometimes have an atypical onset. In this paper we primarily sought information on affected patients who initially presented with movement disorders other than chorea. We also investigated atypical motor presentations in relation to triplet CAG expansions. After reviewing the clinical records of two neurological centres, we identified patients with a final, documented diagnosis of HD and selected for study 205 patients according to their onset of motor manifestations. CAG repeats were analysed. Of the 205 patients studied, 15 had atypical motor symptoms at onset. In this group we identified three types of initial clinical manifestations other than chorea: parkinsonism, ataxia and dystonia. We conclude that HD patients may have different motor manifestations at the initiation of the illness. Patients with atypical movement disorders in the early stages have larger CAG expansions and an earlier age at onset than HD patients with typical onset chorea.

Sobue, G. (2000). "[Triplet repeat disease, with particular emphasis of spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA)]." Rinsho Shinkeigaku 40(12): 1193-5.
Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) is an X-linked neurodegenerative disease caused by the expansion of a CAG repeat in the first exon of the androgen receptor (AR) gene. To date, eight CAG-repeat diseases have been identified, including spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA). Huntington's disease (HD), dentatorubralpallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA) and five spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs 1, 2, 3, 6, 7). These disorders likely share a common pathogenesis caused by the gain of a toxic function associated with the expanded polyglutamine tract. Several mechanisms have been postulated as a pathogenic process for neurodegeneration caused by the expanded polyglutamine tract. Processing of the polyglutamine containing proteins by proteases liberate truncated polyglutamine tract, which may cause neurodegeneration as demonstrated in transgenic mice and transfected cells. In addition to cellular toxicity, truncated and expanded polyglutamine tracts have been shown to form intranuclear inclusions (NI). The NIs formed by the disease protein are a common pathological feature of these diseases. In SBMA, NIs containing AR protein have been observed in regions of SBMA central nervous system susceptible to degenerations. Transcriptional factors or their cofactors, such as cerb or creb-binding protein (CBP) sequestrated in the NI may alter the major intracellular transcriptional signal transduction, and ultimately may result in neuronal degeneration. The ubiquitin-proteasome pathway may also contribute to the pathogenesis of CAG-repeat diseases. As for the therapeutic strategies, many possibilities have been demonstrated. Overexpression of Hsp70 and Hsp40 chaperones act together to protect a cultured neuronal cell model of SBMA from a cellular toxicity of expanded polyglutamine tract.

Schmidt, K. H., C. M. Abbott, et al. (2000). "Two opposing effects of mismatch repair on CTG repeat instability in Escherichia coli." Mol Microbiol 35(2): 463-71.
The expansion of normally polymorphic CTG microsatellites in certain human genes has been identified as the causative mutation of a number of hereditary neurological disorders, including Huntington's disease and myotonic dystrophy. Here, we have investigated the effect of methyl-directed mismatch repair (MMR) on the stability of a (CTG)43 repeat in Escherichia coli over 140 generations and find two opposing effects. In contrast to orientation-dependent repeat instability in wild-type E. coli and yeast, we observed no orientation dependence in MMR- E. coli cells and suggest that, for the repeat that we have studied, orientation dependence in wild-type cells is mainly caused by functional mismatch repair genes. Our results imply that slipped structures are generated during replication, causing single triplet expansions and contractions in MMR- cells, because they are left unrepaired. On the other hand, we find that the repair of such slipped structures by the MMR system can go awry, resulting in large contractions. We show that these mutS-dependent contractions arise preferentially when the CTG sequence is encoded by the lagging strand. The nature of this orientation dependence argues that the small slipped structures that are recognized by the MMR system are formed primarily on the lagging strand of the replication fork. It also suggests that, in the presence of functional MMR, removal of 3 bp slipped structures causes the formation of larger contractions that are probably the result of secondary structure formation by the CTG sequence. We rationalize the opposing effects of MMR on repeat tract stability with a model that accounts for CTG repeat instability and loss of orientation dependence in MMR- cells. Our work resolves a contradiction between opposing claims in the literature of both stabilizing and destabilizing effects of MMR on CTG repeat instability in E. coli.

Rasmussen, A., R. Macias, et al. (2000). "Huntington disease in children: genotype-phenotype correlation." Neuropediatrics 31(4): 190-4.
Huntington disease is a neurodegenerative disorder of adulthood; however, a subset of early-onset patients exists, representing 1% of all HD patients. We reviewed a population of 155 HD-families to determine the frequency, molecular and clinical characteristics of children with an onset before the age of 10 years. In each case, a neurological evaluation was performed as well as molecular detection of the expanded CAG triplet in the affected child and both parents. The family history was also reviewed and updated. Seven children (1.92%) had onset of symptoms before the age of 10, two of them were dead by the time of the study. Large CAG expansions with intergenerational instability were identified, and in one case the child's allele was almost three times larger than the allele of the asymptomatic transmitting father, a situation reported only once before. Clinically, they showed preponderance of rigidity, seizures, learning disabilities and a rapid course of the disease. We attempted to use UHDRS. However, consistent results could not be obtained, suggesting that the scale should be revised for use in juvenile cases. HD should be considered in the differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases in children, even in the absence of a positive family history.

Matsuyama, N., S. Hadano, et al. (2000). "Identification and characterization of the miniature pig Huntington's disease gene homolog: evidence for conservation and polymorphism in the CAG triplet repeat." Genomics 69(1): 72-85.
Huntington's disease (HD) is associated with a significant expansion of a CAG trinucleotide repeat, which results in a lengthened polyglutamine tract in the single gene product, huntingtin, on human 4p16.3. We isolated cDNA clones that encompassed the entire coding sequence of the miniature pig HD gene (Sus HD) from two porcine testis cDNA libraries. The cDNA contig revealed a 12,749-nucleotide transcript coding for a 345-kDa protein (3139 amino acid residues), which exhibited 96% peptide sequence homology to human huntingtin. Northern blot analysis revealed that the Sus HD gene was ubiquitously expressed as two large transcripts of approximately 11 and 13 kb in size in all the tested tissues, much like the human HD gene. The CAG trinucleotide repeat was found to be interrupted by CAA triplets and to encode 17 or 18 consecutive glutamine residues. In our laboratory stock of miniature pig, three allotypes in the triplet repeat sequence were found. Thus, the Sus HD gene closely resembles its human counterpart in terms of sequence and expression pattern. In particular, human-miniature pig similarities in the normal length of the CAG triplet repeat as well as its repeat-number polymorphism may indicate that miniature pig would provide a good animal model for Huntington's disease.

Kennedy, L. and P. F. Shelbourne (2000). "Dramatic mutation instability in HD mouse striatum: does polyglutamine load contribute to cell-specific vulnerability in Huntington's disease?" Hum Mol Genet 9(17): 2539-44.
An unstable CAG triplet repeat expansion encoding a polyglutamine stretch within the ubiquitously expressed protein huntingtin is responsible for causing Huntington's disease (HD). By quantifying the repeat sizes of individual mutant alleles in tissues derived from an accurate genetic mouse model of HD we show that the mutation becomes very unstable in striatal tissue. The expansion-biased changes increase with age, such that some striatal cells from old HD mice contain mutations that have tripled in size. If this pattern of repeat instability is recapitulated in human striatal tissue, the concomitant increased polyglutamine load may contribute to the patterns of selective neuronal cell death in HD. Our findings also suggest that trinucleotide repeat instability can occur by mechanisms that are not replication-based.

Keckarevic, D., B. Culjkovic, et al. (2000). "The status of SCA1, MJD/SCA3, FRDA, DRPLA and MD triplet containing genes in patients with Huntington disease and healthy controls." J Neurogenet 14(4): 257-63.
A number of human hereditary neuromuscular and neurodegenerative disorders are caused by the expansion of trinucleotide repeats within certain genes. Here we report the results of the analysis of five trinucleotide repeats containing genes (SCA1, MJD/SCA3, DRPLA, FRDA and MD) in HD patients and in a group of healthy controls. Allelic frequency distributions for SCA1 and FRDA genes were shifted toward larger alleles in the group of unrelated HD patients, compared to healthy controls. This linkage disequilibrium suggests a possible existence of a common mechanism of trinucleotide repeats expansion in these loci.

Jakupciak, J. P. and R. D. Wells (2000). "Genetic instabilities of triplet repeat sequences by recombination." IUBMB Life 50(6): 355-9.
The expansion of triplet repeat sequences is an initial step in the disease etiology of a number of hereditary neurological disorders in humans. Diseases such as myotonic dystrophy, Huntington's, several spinocerebellar ataxias, fragile X syndrome, and Friedreich's ataxia are caused by the expansions of CTG.CAG, CGG.CCG, or GAA.TTC repeats. The mechanisms of the expansion process have been investigated intensely in E. coli, yeast, transgenic mice, mammalian cell culture, and in human clinical cases. Whereas studies from 1994-1999 have implicated DNA replication and repair at the paused synthesis sites due to the unusual conformations of the triplet repeat sequences, recent work has shown that homologous recombination (gene conversion) is a powerful mechanism for generating massive expansions, in addition to, or in concert with, replication and repair.

Bowater, R. P. and R. D. Wells (2000). "The intrinsically unstable life of DNA triplet repeats associated with human hereditary disorders." Prog Nucleic Acid Res Mol Biol 66: 159-202.
Expansions of specific DNA triplet repeats are the cause of an increasing number of hereditary neurological disorders in humans. In some diseases, such as Huntington's and several spinocerebellar ataxias, the repetitive DNA sequences are translated into long tracts of the same amino acid (usually glutamine), which alters interactions with cellular constituents and leads to the development of disease. For other disorders, including common genetic disorders such as myotonic dystrophy and fragile X syndrome, the DNA repeat is located in noncoding regions of transcribed sequences and disease is probably caused by altered gene expression. In studies in lower organisms, mammalian cells, and transgenic mice, high frequencies of length changes (increases and decreases) occur in long DNA triplet repeats. These observations are similar to other types of repetitive DNA sequences, which also undergo frequent length changes at genomic loci. A variety of processes acting on DNA influence the genetic stability of DNA triplet repeats, including replication, recombination, repair, and transcription. It is not yet known how these different multienzyme systems interact to produce the genetic mutation of expanded repeats. In vitro studies have identified that DNA triplet repeats can adopt several unusual DNA structures, including hairpins, triplexes, quadruplexes, slipped structures, and highly flexible and writhed helices. The formation of stable unusual structures within the cell is likely to disturb DNA metabolism and be a critical intermediate in the molecular mechanism(s) leading to genetic instabilities of DNA repeats and, hence, to disease pathogenesis.

Soares, M., J. Buxbaum, et al. (1999). "Genetic anticipation in Portuguese kindreds with familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy is unlikely to be caused by triplet repeat expansions." Hum Genet 104(6): 480-5.
Familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy (FAP) is a lethal autosomal dominant type of amyloidosis resulting from the deposition of transthyretin (ATTR) variants in the peripheral and autonomic nervous systems. ATTR V30M-associated FAP exhibits marked genetic anticipation in some families, with clinical symptoms developing at an earlier age in successive generations. The genetic basis of this phenomenon in FAP is unknown. Anticipation has been associated with the dynamic expansion of trinucleotide repeats in several neurodegenerative disorders, such as Huntington disease, myotonic dystrophy, and fragile X syndrome. We have used the repeat expansion detection (RED) assay to screen affected members of Portuguese FAP kindreds for expansion of any of the ten possible trinucleotide repeats. Nine generational pairs with differences in their age of onset greater than 12 years and a control pair with identical ages of onset were tested. No major differences were found in the lengths of the ten trinucleotide repeats analyzed. The distribution of the maximal repeat sizes was consistent with reported studies in unrelated individuals with no known genetic disease. The present data do not support a role for trinucleotide repeat expansions as the molecular mechanism underlying anticipation in Portuguese FAP.

Ross, C. A., J. D. Wood, et al. (1999). "Polyglutamine pathogenesis." Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 354(1386): 1005-11.
An increasing number of neurodegenerative disorders have been found to be caused by expanding CAG triplet repeats that code for polyglutamine. Huntington's disease (HD) is the most common of these disorders and dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA) is very similar to HD, but is caused by mutation in a different gene, making them good models to study. In this review, we will concentrate on the roles of protein aggregation, nuclear localization and proteolytic processing in disease pathogenesis. In cell model studies of HD, we have found that truncated N-terminal portions of huntingtin (the HD gene product) with expanded repeats form more aggregates than longer or full length huntingtin polypeptides. These shorter fragments are also more prone to aggregate in the nucleus and cause more cell toxicity. Further experiments with huntingtin constructs harbouring exogenous nuclear import and nuclear export signals have implicated the nucleus in direct cell toxicity. We have made mouse models of HD and DRPLA using an N-terminal truncation of huntingtin (N171) and full-length atrophin-1 (the DRPLA gene product), respectively. In both models, diffuse neuronal nuclear staining and nuclear inclusion bodies are observed in animals expressing the expanded glutamine repeat protein, further implicating the nucleus as a primary site of neuronal dysfunction. Neuritic pathology is also observed in the HD mice. In the DRPLA mouse model, we have found that truncated fragments of atrophin-1 containing the glutamine repeat accumulate in the nucleus, suggesting that proteolysis may be critical for disease progression. Taken together, these data lead towards a model whereby proteolytic processing, nuclear localization and protein aggregation all contribute to pathogenesis.

Reddy, P. H., V. Charles, et al. (1999). "Transgenic mice expressing mutated full-length HD cDNA: a paradigm for locomotor changes and selective neuronal loss in Huntington's disease." Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 354(1386): 1035-45.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized clinically by motor and psychiatric disturbances and pathologically by neuronal loss and gliosis (reactive astrocytosis) particularly in the striatum and cerebral cortex. We have recently created HD full-length cDNA transgenic mouse models that may serve as a paradigm for HD. A more detailed characterization of these models is presented here. The transgene encoding normal huntingtin consists of 9417 bp of the huntingtin coding sequences including 16 tandem CAGs coding for polyglutamines as part of exon 1. The transgene is driven by a heterologous cytomegalovirus promoter. Five independent transgenic mouse lines were obtained using this construct. An additional six transgenic lines were obtained using full-length HD constructs that have been modified to include either 48 or 89 CAG repeat expansions. Southern blot and densitometric analyses indicated unique integration sites for the transgene in each of the lines with a copy number ranging from two to 22 copies. Widespread expression of the transgene in brain, heart, spleen, kidney, lung, liver and gonads from each line was determined by Western blot analyses. In the brain, transgene expression was found in cerebral cortex, striatum, hippocampus and cerebellum. Expression of the transgene was as much as five times the endogenous mouse huntingtin level. Phenotypically, only mice expressing 48 or 89 CAG repeats manifested progressive behavioural and motor dysfunction. Early behavioural abnormalities were characterized by trunk curling and clasping of both fore- and hindlimbs when the animals were suspended by their tails. Subsequently, these mice exhibited hyperkinetic movements, including heightened exploratory activities, unidirectional rotational behaviour, backflipping and excessive grooming that lasted for several weeks. Eventually, the animals progressed to a hypokinetic phase consisting of slowed movements and lack of response to sensory stimuli. Urine retention or incontinence was also a prominent feature of the hypokinetic phase. At the end stage of the disease process, HD48(B,D) and HD89(A-C) mice became akinetic just prior to death. Neuropathological examination of mice at various stages indicated that it was only during the hypokinetic phase and thereafter when selective neuronal loss was most apparent. Regions of neurodegeneration and loss included the striatum, cerebral cortex, thalamus and hippocampus. TUNEL staining indicated an apoptotic mode of cell death in these brain regions. Comparative neuronal counts after Nissl staining showed as much as 20% loss of small and medium neurons in the striatum in mice at the hypokinetic and akinetic stages. Reactive astrocytosis accompanied the areas of neurodegeneration and loss. Polyglutamine aggregates in the form of neuronal intranuclear inclusions and diffuse nuclear and perinuclear aggregations were found in a small percentage of neurons, including those in brain regions that are typically spared in HD. This observation suggests that polyglutamine aggregates may not be sufficient to cause neuronal loss in HD. In both behavioural and neuropathological analyses, wild-type and transgenic animals with 16 CAG repeats were indistinguishable from each other and do not exhibit the changes observed for mice carrying the 48 and 89 CAG repeat mutations. Thus, animals expressing the CAG repeat expansions appear to represent clinically analogous models for HD pathogenesis, and may also provide insights into the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of other triplet repeat disorders.

Preisinger, E., B. M. Jordan, et al. (1999). "Evidence for a recruitment and sequestration mechanism in Huntington's disease." Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 354(1386): 1029-34.
Polyglutamine (polyQ) extension in the coding sequence of mutant huntingtin causes neuronal degeneration associated with the formation of insoluble polyQ aggregates in Huntington's disease. We constructed an array of CAG/CAA triplet repeats, coding for a range of 25-300 glutamine residues, which was used to generate expression constructs with minimal flanking sequence. Normal-length (25 glutamine residues) polyQ did not aggregate when transfected alone. Remarkably, when co-transfected with extended (100-300 glutamine residues) polyQ tracts, normal-length polyQ-containing peptides were trapped in insoluble detergent-resistant aggregates. Aggregates formed in the cytoplasm but were visible in the nucleus only when a strong nuclear localization signal was present. Intermolecular interactions between polyQ tracts mediated the localization of heterogeneous aggregates into the nucleolus by nucleolin protein. Our results suggest that extended polyQ can interact with cellular polyQ-containing proteins, transport them to ectopic cellular locations, and form heterogeneous polyQ aggregates. We provide evidence for a recruitment mechanism for pathogenesis in the polyQ neurodegenerative disorders. In susceptible cells, extended polyQ tracts in huntingtin might interact with and sequester or deplete certain endogenous polyQ-containing cellular proteins.

Nilssen, O. (1999). "[Dynamic mutations in hereditary neurodegenerative disorders]." Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 119(20): 3021-7.
Triplet repeat expansion diseases (TREDs) are characterized by co-incidence between neurological disease manifestation and amplification of specific trinucleotide repeats in different but defined loci. This class of mutations was first identified in 1991 as the cause of spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) and fragile X syndrome (FRAXA). Since then, TNR (tri-nucleotide repeat) expansions have been found to be the causative mechanism in 11 other neurodegenerative disorders. Short cytosine-adenine-guanine (CAG) expansions are characteristic for Huntington's disease (HD), spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA), dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA) and spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) type 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7. In the normal population, the TNR units are polymorphic but transmitted stably from one generation to the next. However, in the above disorders the TNRs are expanded into the disease range and subjected to meiotic instability in a length-dependent manner. Thus, disease-associated, expanded TNRs tend to increase in length from generation to generation. This explains the phenomenon of anticipation associated with these disorders. TNR expansions result in polyglutamine (Q)n expansions in the corresponding proteins. Such mutant proteins tend to precipitate as a result of self-aggregation leading to the formation of neuronal nuclear inclusions and, hence, selective degeneration and loss of neuronal cells.

Monckton, D. G., M. L. Cayuela, et al. (1999). "Very large (CAG)(n) DNA repeat expansions in the sperm of two spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 males." Hum Mol Genet 8(13): 2473-8.
Genetic anticipation, i.e. increasing disease severity and decreasing age of onset from one generation to the next, is observed in a number of diseases, including myotonic dystrophy type 1, Huntington's disease and several of the spinocerebellar ataxias. All of these disorders are associated with the expansion of a trinucleotide repeat and array length is positively correlated with disease severity and inversely correlated with the age of onset. The expanded repeat is highly unstable and continues to expand from one generation to the next, providing a molecular explanation for anticipation. Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7) is one of the latest additions to the list of triplet repeat diseases and is distinct from the other SCAs in that it is accompanied by retinal degeneration. Pedigree analyses have previously revealed that the SCA7 repeat is highly unstable and liable to expand, in particular when transmitted by a male. Surprisingly, though, an under-representation of male transmission has also been reported. We now demonstrate directly by single molecule analyses that the expanded repeat is extraordinarily unstable in the male germline and biased toward massive increases. Nearly all of the mutant sperm of two SCA7 males contain alleles that are so large that most of the affected offspring would at best have a severe infantile form of the disease. Indeed, the gross under-representation of such very large expanded alleles in patients suggests that a significant proportion of such alleles might be associated with embryonic lethality or dysfunctional sperm.

Miki, T. and H. Yamagata (1999). "[Genomic instability and neurodegenerative disease]." Rinsho Byori 47(1): 37-45.
The discovery of unstable DNA sequences as the cause of genetic disease is a fascinating new area in human genetics, raising a number of important questions addressing the understanding of both the mechanisms and the effects of this new type of mutation. Trinucleotide repeat expansion mutations have been identified in a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA), fragile X syndrome (FRAXA and FRAXE), myotonic dystrophy (DM), Huntington's disease (HD), spinocerebellar ataxia types 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 (SCA1, SCA2, SCA3, SCA6, SCA7), dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA), Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) and autosomal dominant pure spastic paraplegia (ADPSP). They have been traced to genetic variation in the length of (CTG)n/(CAG)n, (CGG)n/(CCG)n, or (GAA)n/(TTC)n triplet repeats in DNA. In normal individuals these loci contain a short length of triplet repeats (usually 5-40), which is polymorphic within the population. Increases in the lengths of the translated triplet repeats to 40-100 are associated with disease symptoms, whereas the untranslated triplet repeats to 200-3000 are associated with the disease. We concentrated on repeat expansions in myotonic dystrophy. In this symposium, we outline the molecular aspects of myotonic dystrophy including DNA diagnosis and anticipation, and review the similarities and differences among these triplet repeat diseases.

Margolis, R. L., M. G. McInnis, et al. (1999). "Trinucleotide repeat expansion and neuropsychiatric disease." Arch Gen Psychiatry 56(11): 1019-31.
Trinucleotide, or triplet, repeats consist of 3 nucleotides consecutively repeated (e.g., CCG CCG CCG CCG CCG) within a region of DNA, a not uncommon motif in the genome of humans and other species. In 1991, a new type of genetic mutation was discovered, known as a dynamic or expansion mutation, in which the number of triplets in a repeat increases and the length becomes unstable. During the past decade, nearly 20 diseases-including Huntington disease, 2 forms of the fragile X syndrome, and myotonic dystrophy-caused by trinucleotide repeat expansions have been identified. The unstable nature of the expanded repeat leads to remarkable patterns of inheritance in these diseases, distinctly at odds with traditional notions of mendelian genetics. We review the clinical and genetic features of these disorders, with a particular emphasis on their psychiatric manifestations. We also critically examine the hypothesis that expansion mutations may have an etiologic role in psychiatric diseases such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism.

MacDonald, M. E., J. P. Vonsattel, et al. (1999). "Evidence for the GluR6 gene associated with younger onset age of Huntington's disease." Neurology 53(6): 1330-2.
Huntington's disease (HD) is attributed to a triplet CAG repeat mutation, and about half of the variation in onset age can be explained by the size of the repeat expansion. Recently, a TAA repeat polymorphism in close linkage to the kainate receptor, GluR6, was reported related to onset age in HD. We examined this polymorphism in 258 unrelated HD-affected persons (172 from a clinic sample and 86 from a postmortem series). This study confirms that the 155 allele is associated with younger onset age of HD and suggests that it is in linkage disequilibrium with a variant of the GluR6 gene or another gene in this region.

Culjkovic, B., O. Stojkovic, et al. (1999). "Correlation between triplet repeat expansion and computed tomography measures of caudate nuclei atrophy in Huntington's disease." J Neurol 246(11): 1090-3.
Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant, progressive disorder characterized by choreic movements, cognitive decline, and psychiatric manifestations. Eleven patients with HD were retrospectively selected from a larger group of 42 patients based on the similar, early onset of the disease (between 21 and 30 years) and the same duration of HD at the moment of computed tomography (CT) examination (5 years). A significant correlation between the number of CAG trinucleotides and the bicaudate index or the frontal horn index, two indices of caudate atrophy, was found in this group of patients. Our results, although in a small number of patients, suggest that the striatal degeneration, assessed by CT measures, is primarily regulated by the size of expanded CAG repeats.

Brock, G. J., N. H. Anderson, et al. (1999). "Cis-acting modifiers of expanded CAG/CTG triplet repeat expandability: associations with flanking GC content and proximity to CpG islands." Hum Mol Genet 8(6): 1061-7.
An increasing number of human genetic disorders are associated with the expansion of trinucleotide repeats. The majority of these diseases are associated with CAG/CTG expansions, including Huntington's disease, myotonic dystrophy and many of the spinocerebellar ataxias. Recently, two new expanded CAG/CTG repeats have been identified that are not associated with a phenotype. Expanded alleles at all of these loci are unstable, with frequent length changes during intergenerational transmission. However, variation in the relative levels of instability, and the size and direction of the length change mutations observed, between the CAG/CTG loci is apparent. We have quantified these differences, taking into account effects of progenitor allele length, by calculating the relative expandability of each repeat. Since the repeat motifs are the same, these differences must be a result of flanking sequence modifiers. We present data that indicate a strong correlation between the relative expandability of these repeats and the flanking GC content. Moreover, we demonstrate that the most expandable loci are all located within CpG islands. These data provide the first insights into the molecular bases of cis -acting flanking sequences modifying the relative mutability of dispersed expanded human triplet repeats.

Baldi, P., S. Brunak, et al. (1999). "Structural basis for triplet repeat disorders: a computational analysis." Bioinformatics 15(11): 918-29.
MOTIVATION: Over a dozen major degenerative disorders, including myotonic distrophy, Huntington's disease and fragile X syndrome, result from unstable expansions of particular trinucleotides. Remarkably, only some of all the possible triplets, namely CAG/CTG, CGG/CCG and GAA/TTC, have been associated with the known pathological expansions. This raises some basic questions at the DNA level. Why do particular triplets seem to be singled out? What is the mechanism for their expansion and how does it depend on the triplet itself? Could other triplets or longer repeats be involved in other diseases? RESULTS: Using several different computational models of DNA structure, we show that the triplets involved in the pathological repeats generally fall into extreme classes. Thus, CAG/CTG repeats are particularly flexible, whereas GCC, CGG and GAA repeats appear to display both flexible and rigid (but curved) characteristics depending on the method of analysis. The fact that (1) trinucleotide repeats often become increasingly unstable when they exceed a length of approximately 50 repeats, and (2) repeated 12-mers display a similar increase in instability above 13 repeats, together suggest that approximately 150 bp is a general threshold length for repeat instability. Since this is about the length of DNA wrapped up in a single nucleosome core particle, we speculate that chromatin structure may play an important role in the expansion mechanism. We furthermore suggest that expansion of a dodecamer repeat, which we predict to have very high flexibility, may play a role in the pathogenesis of the neurodegenerative disorder multiple system atrophy (MSA). CONTACT:,,,

Atac, F. B., B. Elibol, et al. (1999). "The genetic analysis of Turkish patients with Huntington's disease." Acta Neurol Scand 100(3): 195-8.
OBJECTIVE: Exploring the (CAG)n expansion within IT 15 gene in Turkish Huntington's disease (HD) patients and its relation to downstream (CCG)n repeat polymorphism to elucidate population specific haplotypic heterogeneity. METHODS: Twenty-seven patients with clinical diagnosis of HD from 19 families were sampled. The triplet repeats were evaluated by sizing the fluorescent PCR products on an ABI 310 capillary gel electrophoresis unit. RESULTS: The number of (CAG)n repeat expansions (range: 40-76, mean: 45.6+/-7) were inversely correlated with age of onset (r=-0.81, P<0.0001). The (CCG)n polymorphism in HD chromosomes was confined to (CCG)7 in all patients. In normal chromosomes CAG polymorphism was accumulated at a relatively higher range (mean: 19.3+/-2.9) together with the common occurrence of(CCG)7 and (CCG)10 alleles. CONCLUSION: The distribution range of the CAG and CCG repeat polymorphism in normal chromosomes and strong linkage disequilibrium between HD mutation and (CCG)7 haplotype provided a striking similarity to populations of western European descent.

Sermon, K., V. Goossens, et al. (1998). "Preimplantation diagnosis for Huntington's disease (HD): clinical application and analysis of the HD expansion in affected embryos." Prenat Diagn 18(13): 1427-36.
Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant disease characterized by motor disturbance, cognitive loss and psychiatric manifestations, starting between the fourth and the fifth decade, followed by death within 10-20 years of onset of the disease. The disease-causing mutation is an expansion of a CAG triplet repeat at the 5' coding end of the Huntington gene. We have developed a single-cell PCR assay for the HD gene in order to propose preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for the couples at risk. We present here our first results with our first nine PGD cycles and also discuss the behaviour of the disease-causing expansion in pre-implantation embryos.

Rosenblatt, A., N. G. Ranen, et al. (1998). "Patients with features similar to Huntington's disease, without CAG expansion in huntingtin." Neurology 51(1): 215-20.
OBJECTIVE: To describe characteristics of gene-negative patients with clinical features of Huntington's disease (HD), exploring likely etiologies. BACKGROUND: When a direct gene test became definitive for diagnosis of HD, we discovered a number of patients in our clinics in Baltimore, MD, and Cambridge, UK, believed or suspected to have HD who did not have the triplet repeat expansion. METHODS: Patients were examined using standardized instruments, and given full neurologic and psychiatric evaluations. Those negative for HD were tested for dentatorubro-pallidoluysian atrophy, SCA-1, SCA-3, SCA-2, SCA-6, and other conditions as indicated. RESULTS: Of 15 patients, 7 received specific diagnoses or appear to be sporadic cases, 4 have a possible but uncertain relation to HD, and 4 have unknown familial progressive movement disorders. CONCLUSIONS: This last group of patients might be properly described as phenocopies of HD, some of which may be caused by unidentified triplet repeat expansions.

Reddy, P. H., M. Williams, et al. (1998). "Behavioural abnormalities and selective neuronal loss in HD transgenic mice expressing mutated full-length HD cDNA." Nat Genet 20(2): 198-202.
Huntington disease (HD) is an adult-onset, autosomal dominant inherited human neurodegenerative disorder characterized by hyperkinetic involuntary movements, including motor restlessness and chorea, slowing of voluntary movements and cognitive impairment. Selective regional neuron loss and gliosis in striatum, cerebral cortex, thalamus, subthalamus and hippocampus are well recognized as neuropathological correlates for the clinical manifestations of HD. The underlying genetic mutation is the expansion of CAG trinucleotide repeats (coding for polyglutamines) to 36-121 copies in exon 1 of the HD gene. The HD mRNA and protein product (huntingtin) show widespread distribution, and thus much remains to be understood about the selective and progressive neurodegeneration in HD. To create an experimental animal model for HD, transgenic mice were generated showing widespread expression of full-length human HD cDNA with either 16, 48 or 89 CAG repeats. Only mice with 48 or 89 CAG repeats manifested progressive behavioural and motor dysfunction with neuron loss and gliosis in striatum, cerebral cortex, thalamus and hippocampus. These animals represent clinically relevant models for HD pathogenesis, and may provide insights into the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of other triplet repeat disorders.

Petruska, J., M. J. Hartenstine, et al. (1998). "Analysis of strand slippage in DNA polymerase expansions of CAG/CTG triplet repeats associated with neurodegenerative disease." J Biol Chem 273(9): 5204-10.
Lengthy expansions of trinucleotide repeats are found in DNA of patients suffering severe neurodegenerative age-related diseases. Using a synthetic self-priming DNA, containing CAG and CTG repeats implicated in Huntington's disease and several other neurological disorders, we measure the equilibrium distribution of hairpin folding and generate triplet repeat expansions by polymerase-catalyzed extensions of the hairpin folds. Expansions occur by slippage in steps of two CAG triplets when the self-priming sequence (CTG)16(CAG)4 is extended with proofreading-defective Klenow fragment (KF exo-) from Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I. Slippage by two triplets is 20 times more frequent than by one triplet, in accordance with our finding that hairpin loops with even numbers of triplets are 1-2 kcal/mol more stable than their odd-numbered counterparts. By measuring triplet repeat expansions as they evolve over time, individual rate constants for expansion from 4 to 18 CAG repeats are obtained. An empirical expression is derived from the data, enabling the prediction of slippage rates from the ratio of hairpin CTG/CTG interactions to CAG/CTG interactions. Slippage is initiated internally in the hairpin folds in preference to melting inward from the 3' terminus. The same triplet expansions are obtained using proofreading-proficient KF exo+, provided 10-100-fold higher dNTP concentrations are present to counteract the effect of 3'-exonucleolytic proofreading.

Mariappan, S. V., L. A. Silks, 3rd, et al. (1998). "Solution structures of the Huntington's disease DNA triplets, (CAG)n." J Biomol Struct Dyn 15(4): 723-44.
Highly polymorphic DNA triplet repeats, (CAG)n, are located inside the first exon of the Huntington's disease gene. Inordinate expansion of this repeat is correlated with the onset and progression of the disease. NMR spectroscopy, gel electrophoresis, digestion by single-strand specific P1 enzyme, and in vitro replication assay have been used to investigate the structural basis of (CAG)n expansion. Nondenaturing gel electrophoresis and 1D 1H NMR studies of (CAG)5 and (CAG)6 reveal the presence of hairpins and mismatched duplexes as the major and minor populations respectively. However, at high DNA concentrations (i.e., 1.0-2.0 mM that is typically required for 2D NMR experiments) both (CAG)5 and (CAG)6 exist predominantly in mismatched duplex forms. Mismatched duplex structures of (CAG)5 and (CAG)6 are useful, because they adequately model the stem of the biologically relevant hairpins formed by (CAG)n. We, therefore, performed detailed NMR spectroscopic studies on the duplexes of (CAG)5 and (CAG)6. We also studied a model duplex, (CGCAGCG)2 that contains the underlined building block of the duplex. This duplex shows the following structural characteristics: (i) all the nucleotides are in (C2'-endo, anti) conformations, (ii) mismatched A x A base pairs are flanked by two Watson-Crick G x C base pairs and (iii) A x A base pairs are stably stacked (and intra-helical) and are formed by a single N6-H--N1 hydrogen bond. The nature of A x A pairing is confirmed by temperature-dependent HMQC and HMQC-NOESY experiments on the [(CA*G)5]2 duplex where the adenines are 15N-labeled at N6. Temperature- and pH-dependent imino proton spectra, nondenaturing electrophoresis, and P1 digestion data demonstrate that under a wide range of solution conditions longer (CAG)n repeats (n> or =10) exist exclusively in hairpin conformation with two single-stranded loops. Finally, an in vitro replication assay with (CAG)8,21 inserts in the M13 single-stranded DNA templates shows a replication bypass for the (CAG)21 insert but not for the (CAG)8 insert in the template. This demonstrates that for a sufficiently long insert (n=21 in this case), a hairpin is formed by the (CAG)n even in presence of its complementary strand. This observation implies that the formation of hairpin by the (CAG)n may cause slippage during replication and thus may explain the observed length polymorphism.

Davies, S. W., K. Beardsall, et al. (1998). "Are neuronal intranuclear inclusions the common neuropathology of triplet-repeat disorders with polyglutamine-repeat expansions?" Lancet 351(9096): 131-3.
Neuronal intranuclear inclusions have been found in the brain of a transgenic mouse model of Huntington's disease and in necropsy brain tissue of patients with Huntington's disease. We suggest that neuronal intranuclear inclusions are the common neuropathology for all inherited diseases caused by expansion of polyglutamine repeats. We also suggest that patients with a pathological diagnosis of neuronal intranuclear hyaline inclusion disease may also have polyglutamine repeat expansions.

Becher, M. W., J. A. Kotzuk, et al. (1998). "Intranuclear neuronal inclusions in Huntington's disease and dentatorubral and pallidoluysian atrophy: correlation between the density of inclusions and IT15 CAG triplet repeat length." Neurobiol Dis 4(6): 387-97.
Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by CAG triplet repeat expansion in IT15 which leads to polyglutamine stretches in the HD protein product, huntingtin. The pathological hallmark of HD is the degeneration of subsets of neurons, primarily those in the striatum and neocortex. Specific morphological markers of affected cells have not been identified in patients with HD, although a unique itranuclear inclusion was recently reported in neurons of transgenic animals expressing a construct encoding the N-terminal part (including the glutamine repeat) of huntingtin (Davies et al., 1997). In order to understand the importance of this finding, we sought for comparable nuclear abnormalities in autopsy material from patients with HD. In all 20 HD cases examined, anti-ubiquitin and N-terminal huntingtin antibodies identified itranuclear inclusions in neurons and the frequency of these lesions correlated with the length of the CAG repeat in IT15. In addition, examination of material from the related HD-like triplet repeat disorder, dentatorubral and pallidoluysian atrophy, also revealed intranuclear neuronal inclusions. These findings suggest that intranuclear inclusions containing protein aggregates may be common feature of the pathogenesis of glutamine repeat neurodegenerative disorders.

Li, R. and R. S. el-Mallakh (1997). "Triplet repeat gene sequences in neuropsychiatric diseases." Harv Rev Psychiatry 5(2): 66-74.
The human genome has many nucleotide repeat sequences. These range from a single repeating base to entire duplicated genes. Expansion of repeating triplets of nucleotides in the genome has recently been associated with nine degenerative and developmental neuropsychiatric diseases: fragile X syndrome, fragile X-linked mental retardation, myotonic dystrophy, Friedreich's ataxia, spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, Huntington's disease, spinocerebellar ataxia type 1, dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy, and Machado-Joseph disease. These diseases are all conditions of the central nervous system; in all of them, the inheritance pattern usually exhibits the phenomenon of anticipation (defined as progressively earlier age of onset or a worsening disease severity over successive generations), and the severity of the phenotypic expression and penetrance appears to be related to the extent of the triplet expansion. Identification of this pathological genetic phenomenon solves several of the mysteries that surrounded these conditions but raises many important questions regarding pathogenic mechanisms that may be shared. There is some indication that triplet expansions may also underlie other neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.