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.


September 22, 2019  |  

Differential increases of specific FMR1 mRNA isoforms in premutation carriers.

Over 40% of male and ~16% of female carriers of a premutation FMR1 allele (55-200 CGG repeats) will develop fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome, an adult onset neurodegenerative disorder, while about 20% of female carriers will develop fragile X-associated primary ovarian insufficiency. Marked elevation in FMR1 mRNA transcript levels has been observed with premutation alleles, and RNA toxicity due to increased mRNA levels is the leading molecular mechanism proposed for these disorders. However, although the FMR1 gene undergoes alternative splicing, it is unknown whether all or only some of the isoforms are overexpressed in premutation carriers and which isoforms may contribute to the premutation pathology.To address this question, we have applied a long-read sequencing approach using single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing and qRT-PCR. Our SMRT sequencing analysis performed on peripheral blood mononuclear cells, fibroblasts and brain tissue samples derived from premutation carriers and controls revealed the existence of 16 isoforms of 24 predicted variants. Although the relative abundance of all mRNA isoforms was significantly increased in the premutation group, as expected based on the bulk increase in mRNA levels, there was a disproportionate (fourfold to sixfold) increase, relative to the overall increase in mRNA, in the abundance of isoforms spliced at both exons 12 and 14, specifically Iso10 and Iso10b, containing the complete exon 15 and differing only in splicing in exon 17.These findings suggest that RNA toxicity may arise from a relative increase of all FMR1 mRNA isoforms. Interestingly, the Iso10 and Iso10b mRNA isoforms, lacking the C-terminal functional sites for fragile X mental retardation protein function, are the most increased in premutation carriers relative to normal, suggesting a functional relevance in the pathology of FMR1-associated disorders. Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions.


September 22, 2019  |  

Altered expression of the FMR1 splicing variants landscape in premutation carriers.

FMR1 premutation carriers (55-200 CGG repeats) are at risk for developing Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS), an adult onset neurodegenerative disorder. Approximately 20% of female carriers will develop Fragile X-associated Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (FXPOI), in addition to a number of clinical problems affecting premutation carriers throughout their life span. Marked elevation in FMR1 mRNA levels have been observed with premutation alleles resulting in RNA toxicity, the leading molecular mechanism proposed for the FMR1 associated disorders observed in premutation carriers. The FMR1 gene undergoes alternative splicing and we have recently reported that the relative abundance of all FMR1 mRNA isoforms is significantly increased in premutation carriers. In this study, we characterized the transcriptional FMR1 isoforms distribution pattern in different tissues and identified a total of 49 isoforms, some of which observed only in premutation carriers and which might play a role in the pathogenesis of FXTAS. Further, we investigated the distribution pattern and expression levels of the FMR1 isoforms in asymptomatic premutation carriers and in those with FXTAS and found no significant differences between the two groups. Our findings suggest that the characterization of the expression levels of the different FMR1 isoforms is fundamental for understanding the regulation of the FMR1 gene as imbalance in their expression could lead to an altered functional diversity with neurotoxic consequences. Their characterization will also help to 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. Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier B.V.


July 19, 2019  |  

Sequencing the unsequenceable: expanded CGG-repeat alleles of the fragile X gene.

The human fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene contains a (CGG)(n) trinucleotide repeat in its 5′ untranslated region (5’UTR). Expansions of this repeat result in a number of clinical disorders with distinct molecular pathologies, including fragile X syndrome (FXS; full mutation range, greater than 200 CGG repeats) and fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS; premutation range, 55-200 repeats). Study of these diseases has been limited by an inability to sequence expanded CGG repeats, particularly in the full mutation range, with existing DNA sequencing technologies. Single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing provides an approach to sequencing that is fundamentally different from other “next-generation” sequencing platforms, and is well suited for long, repetitive DNA sequences. We report the first sequence data for expanded CGG-repeat FMR1 alleles in the full mutation range that reveal the confounding effects of CGG-repeat tracts on both cloning and PCR. A unique feature of SMRT sequencing is its ability to yield real-time information on the rates of nucleoside addition by the tethered DNA polymerase; for the CGG-repeat alleles, we find a strand-specific effect of CGG-repeat DNA on the interpulse distance. This kinetic signature reveals a novel aspect of the repeat element; namely, that the particular G bias within the CGG/CCG-repeat element influences polymerase activity in a manner that extends beyond simple nearest-neighbor effects. These observations provide a baseline for future kinetic studies of repeat elements, as well as for studies of epigenetic and other chemical modifications thereof.


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