June 1, 2021  |  

Alternative splicing in FMR1 premutations carriers

Over 40% of males and ~16% of female carriers of a FMR1 premutation allele (55-200 CGG repeats) are at risk for developing Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS), an adult onset neurodegenerative disorder while, about 20% of female carriers will develop Fragile X-associated Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (FXPOI), in addition to a number of adult-onset clinical problems (FMR1 associated disorders). Marked elevation in FMR1 mRNA levels have been observed with premutation alleles and the resulting RNA toxicity is believed to be the leading molecular mechanism proposed for these disorders. The FMR1 gene, as many housekeeping genes, undergoes alternative splicing. Using long-read isoform sequencing (SMRT) and qRT-PCR we have recently reported that, although the relative abundance of all FMR1 mRNA isoforms is significantly increased in the premutation group compared to controls, there is a disproportionate increase, relative to the overall increase in mRNA, in the abundance of isoforms spliced at both exons 12 and 14. In total, we confirmed the existence of 16 out of 24 predicted isoforms in our samples. However, it is unknown, which isoforms, when overexpressed, may contribute to the premutation pathology. To address this question we have further defined the transcriptional FMR1 isoforms distribution pattern in different tissues, including heart, muscle, brain and testis derived from FXTAS premutation carriers and age-matched controls. Preliminary data indicates the presence of a transcriptional signature of the FMR1 gene, which clusters more by individual than by tissue type. We identified additional isoforms than the 16 reported in our previous study, including a group with particular splice patterns that were observed only in premutations but not in controls. Our findings suggest that the characterization of expression levels of the different FMR1 isoforms is fundamental for understanding the regulation of the FMR1 gene as well as for elucidating the mechanism(s) by which “toxic gain of function” of the FMR1 mRNA may play a role in FXTAS and/or in the other FMR1-associated conditions. In addition to the elevated levels of FMR1 isoforms, the altered abundance/ratio of the corresponding FMRP isomers may affect the overall function of FMRP in premutations.


June 1, 2021  |  

Amplification-free targeted enrichment and SMRT Sequencing of repeat-expansion genomic regions

Targeted sequencing has proven to be an economical means of obtaining sequence information for one or more defined regions of a larger genome. However, most target enrichment methods are reliant upon some form of amplification. Amplification removes the epigenetic marks present in native DNA, and some genomic regions, such as those with extreme GC content and repetitive sequences, are recalcitrant to faithful amplification. Yet, a large number of genetic disorders are caused by expansions of repeat sequences. Furthermore, for some disorders, methylation status has been shown to be a key factor in the mechanism of disease.


June 1, 2021  |  

Amplification-free, CRISPR-Cas9 targeted enrichment and SMRT Sequencing of repeat-expansion disease causative genomic regions

Targeted sequencing has proven to be economical for obtaining sequence information for defined regions of the genome. However, most target enrichment methods are reliant upon some form of amplification which can negatively impact downstream analysis. For example, amplification removes epigenetic marks present in native DNA, including nucleotide methylation, which are hypothesized to contribute to disease mechanisms in some disorders. In addition, some genomic regions known to be causative of many genetic disorders have extreme GC content and/or repetitive sequences that tend to be recalcitrant to faithful amplification. We have developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique that employs the CRISPR/Cas9 system to target individual genes. This method, in conjunction with the long reads, high consensus accuracy, and uniform coverage of SMRT Sequencing, allows accurate sequence analysis of complex genomic regions that cannot be investigated with other technologies. Using this strategy, we have successfully targeted a number of repeat expansion disorder loci (HTT, FMR1, ATXN10, C9orf72).With this data, we demonstrate the ability to isolate thousands of individual on-target molecules and, using the Sequel System, accurately sequence through long repeats regardless of the extreme GC-content. The method is compatible with multiplexing of multiple target loci and multiple samples in a single reaction. Furthermore, because there is no amplification step, this technique also preserves native DNA molecules for sequencing, allowing for the direct detection and characterization of epigenetic signatures. To this end, we demonstrate the detection of 5-mC in the CGG repeat of the FMR1 gene that is responsible for Fragile X syndrome.


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