Mov Disord. 2021 Aug 14. doi: 10.1002/mds.28729. Online ahead of print
Background: Spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by expansion of a CAG repeat in Ataxin-2 (ATXN2) gene. The mutant ATXN2 protein with a polyglutamine tract is known to be toxic and contributes to the SCA2 pathogenesis. Objective: Here, we tested the hypothesis that the mutant ATXN2 transcript with an expanded CAG repeat (expATXN2) is also toxic and contributes to SCA2 pathogenesis. Methods: The toxic effect of expATXN2 transcripts on SK-N-MC neuroblastoma cells and primary mouse cortical neurons was evaluated by caspase 3/7 activity and nuclear condensation assay, respectively. RNA immunoprecipitation assay was performed to identify RNA binding proteins (RBPs) that bind to expATXN2 RNA. Quantitative PCR was used to examine if ribosomal RNA (rRNA) processing is disrupted in SCA2 and Huntington's disease (HD) human brain tissue. Results: expATXN2 RNA induces neuronal cell death, and aberrantly interacts with RBPs involved in RNA metabolism. One of the RBPs, transducin β-like protein 3 (TBL3), involved in rRNA processing, binds to both expATXN2 and expanded huntingtin (expHTT) RNA in vitro. rRNA processing is disrupted in both SCA2 and HD human brain tissue. Conclusion: These findings provide the first evidence of a contributory role of expATXN2 transcripts in SCA2 pathogenesis, and further support the role of expHTT transcripts in HD pathogenesis. The disruption of rRNA processing, mediated by aberrant interaction of RBPs with expATXN2 and expHTT transcripts, suggest a point of convergence in the pathogeneses of repeat expansion diseases with potential therapeutic implications.