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Hum Mol Genet. 2013 Dec 20;22(25):5276-87. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddt386. Epub 2013 Aug 9.

Length-dependent CTG·CAG triplet-repeat expansion in myotonic dystrophy patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is an inherited dominant muscular dystrophy caused by expanded CTG·CAG triplet repeats in the 3' untranslated region of the DMPK1 gene, which produces a toxic gain-of-function CUG RNA. It has been shown that the severity of disease symptoms, age of onset and progression are related to the length of the triplet repeats. However, the mechanism(s) of CTG·CAG triplet-repeat instability is not fully understood. Herein, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were generated from DM1 and Huntington's disease patient fibroblasts. We isolated 41 iPSC clones from DM1 fibroblasts, all showing different CTG·CAG repeat lengths, thus demonstrating somatic instability within the initial fibroblast population. During propagation of the iPSCs, the repeats expanded in a manner analogous to the expansion seen in somatic cells from DM1 patients. The correlation between repeat length and expansion rate identified the interval between 57 and 126 repeats as being an important length threshold where expansion rates dramatically increased. Moreover, longer repeats showed faster triplet-repeat expansion. However, the overall tendency of triplet repeats to expand ceased on differentiation into differentiated embryoid body or neurospheres. The mismatch repair components MSH2, MSH3 and MSH6 were highly expressed in iPSCs compared with fibroblasts, and only occupied the DMPK1 gene harboring longer CTG·CAG triplet repeats. In addition, shRNA silencing of MSH2 impeded CTG·CAG triplet-repeat expansion. The information gained from these studies provides new insight into a general mechanism of triplet-repeat expansion in iPSCs.

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