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J Biol Chem. 2014 Feb 21;289(8):4653-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.C113.502336. Epub 2013 Dec 26.

TMPyP4 porphyrin distorts RNA G-quadruplex structures of the disease-associated r(GGGGCC)n repeat of the C9orf72 gene and blocks interaction of RNA-binding proteins.

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From the Graduate Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3M2.


Certain DNA and RNA sequences can form G-quadruplexes, which can affect genetic instability, promoter activity, RNA splicing, RNA stability, and neurite mRNA localization. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia can be caused by expansion of a (GGGGCC)n repeat in the C9orf72 gene. Mutant r(GGGGCC)n- and r(GGCCCC)n-containing transcripts aggregate in nuclear foci, possibly sequestering repeat-binding proteins such as ASF/SF2 and hnRNPA1, suggesting a toxic RNA pathogenesis, as occurs in myotonic dystrophy. Furthermore, the C9orf72 repeat RNA was recently demonstrated to undergo the noncanonical repeat-associated non-AUG translation (RAN translation) into pathologic dipeptide repeats in patient brains, a process that is thought to depend upon RNA structure. We previously demonstrated that the r(GGGGCC)n RNA forms repeat tract length-dependent G-quadruplex structures that bind the ASF/SF2 protein. Here we show that the cationic porphyrin (5,10,15,20-tetra(N-methyl-4-pyridyl) porphyrin (TMPyP4)), which can bind some G-quadruplex-forming sequences, can bind and distort the G-quadruplex formed by r(GGGGCC)8, and this ablates the interaction of either hnRNPA1 or ASF/SF2 with the repeat. These findings provide proof of concept that nucleic acid binding small molecules, such as TMPyP4, can distort the secondary structure of the C9orf72 repeat, which may beneficially disrupt protein interactions, which may ablate either protein sequestration and/or RAN translation into potentially toxic dipeptides. Disruption of secondary structure formation of the C9orf72 RNA repeats may be a viable therapeutic avenue, as well as a means to test the role of RNA structure upon RAN translation.


ASF/SF2; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig Disease); C9orf72; G-quadruplex; RNA; RNA Structure; RNA-Protein Interaction; RNA-binding Protein; TMPyP4; hnRNPA1

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