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Hum Mol Genet. 2000 Aug 12;9(13):1957-66.

CAG tract of MJD-1 may be prone to frameshifts causing polyalanine accumulation.

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Centre for Research in Neurosciences, McGill University, Montreal General Hospital, Québec, Canada.


Machado-Joseph disease (MJD) is one of several disorders caused by the expansion of a coding CAG repeat (exp-CAG). The presence of intranuclear inclusions (INIs) in patients and cellular models of exp-CAG-associated diseases has lead to a nuclear toxicity model. Similar INIs are found in oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, which is caused by a short expansion of an alanine-encoding GCG repeat. Here we propose that transcriptional or translational frameshifts occurring within expanded CAG tracts result in the production and accumulation of polyalanine-containing mutant proteins. We hypothesize that these alanine polymers deposit in cells forming INIs and may contribute to nuclear toxicity. We show evidence that supports our hypothesis in lymphoblast cells from MJD patients, as well as in pontine neurons of MJD brain and in in vitro cell culture models of the disease. We also provide evidence that alanine polymers alone are harmful to cells and predict that a similar pathogenic mechanism may occur in the other CAG repeat disorders.

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