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J Biol Chem. 2013 Mar 22;288(12):8043-52. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.408211. Epub 2013 Jan 30.

Enhanced aggregation of androgen receptor in induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons from spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy.

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Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Keio University, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-8582, Japan.


Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) is an X-linked motor neuron disease caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the androgen receptor (AR) gene. Ligand-dependent nuclear accumulation of mutant AR protein is a critical characteristic of the pathogenesis of SBMA. SBMA has been modeled in AR-overexpressing animals, but precisely how the polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion leads to neurodegeneration is unclear. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are a new technology that can be used to model human diseases, study pathogenic mechanisms, and develop novel drugs. We established SBMA patient-derived iPSCs, investigated their cellular biochemical characteristics, and found that SBMA-iPSCs can differentiate into motor neurons. The CAG repeat numbers in the AR gene of SBMA-iPSCs and also in the atrophin-1 gene of iPSCs derived from another polyQ disease, dentato-rubro-pallido-luysian atrophy (DRPLA), remain unchanged during reprogramming, long term passage, and differentiation, indicating that polyQ disease-associated CAG repeats are stable during maintenance of iPSCs. The level of AR expression is up-regulated by neuronal differentiation and treatment with the AR ligand dihydrotestosterone. Filter retardation assays indicated that aggregation of ARs following dihydrotestosterone treatment in neurons derived from SBMA-iPSCs increases significantly compared with neurological control iPSCs, easily recapitulating the pathological feature of mutant ARs in SBMA-iPSCs. This phenomenon was not observed in iPSCs and fibroblasts, thereby showing the neuron-dominant phenotype of this disease. Furthermore, the HSP90 inhibitor 17-allylaminogeldanamycin sharply decreased the level of aggregated AR in neurons derived from SBMA-iPSCs, indicating a potential for discovery and validation of candidate drugs. We found that SBMA-iPSCs possess disease-specific biochemical features and could thus open new avenues of research into not only SBMA, but also other polyglutamine diseases.

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