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J Gene Med. 2003 Jun;5(6):528-38.

Antisense downregulation of mutant huntingtin in a cell model.

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Section of Neurogenetics, Institute of Medical Biochemistry and Genetics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.



Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder which is caused by an expansion of a CAG repeat sequence in the HD gene. The repeat encodes an expanded polyglutamine tract in the protein huntingtin. The still unknown pathological mechanisms leading to death of specific neurons in the brains of HD patients correlate with the expression of mutant huntingtin. Therefore, we have studied whether mutant huntingtin expression can be downregulated by antisense technique.


NT2 precursor cells and differentiated postmitotic NT2-N neurons, respectively, were transfected with plasmid constructs containing exon 1 of the HD gene with expanded CAG repeats in frame with the reporter protein EGFP. The transfected cell cultures were treated with a phosphorothioated antisense oligonucleotide (PS-ASHD/20+) or a control oligonucleotide either by cotransfection or by addition to the culture medium.


Expression of the fusion protein containing the mutant huntingtin fragment resulted in diffuse green fluorescence in the cytoplasm and formation of aggregates in some of the NT2 cells and NT2-N neurons. We obtained antisense sequence-specific inhibition of expression of the fusion protein and/or suppression of the aggregate formation in both cell types. In the NT2 cells the antisense effect was dependent on the way of administration of the oligo.


The PS-antisense oligo is effective in downregulation of mutant huntingtin, and the reduction of aggregate formation is a sensitive biological marker. The findings suggest that antisense knockdown of huntingtin could be a useful strategy for treatment of HD, and could also be suitable for studies of the normal and pathological function of huntingtin in different cellular model systems.

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