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Neurotherapeutics. 2019 Oct;16(4):1106-1114. doi: 10.1007/s13311-019-00804-6.

Molecular Mechanisms and Future Therapeutics for Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 31 (SCA31).

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Department of Neurology and Neurological Science, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo, Japan.
The Center for Personalized Medicine for Healthy Aging, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Neurotherapeutics, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka, Japan.
Department of Degenerative Neurological Diseases, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira, Japan.


Spinocerebellar ataxia type 31 (SCA31) is one of the autosomal-dominant neurodegenerative disorders that shows progressive cerebellar ataxia as a cardinal symptom. This disease is caused by a 2.5- to 3.8-kb-long complex pentanucleotide repeat containing (TGGAA)n, (TAGAA)n, (TAAAA)n, and (TAAAATAGAA)n in an intron of the gene called BEAN1 (brain expressed, associated with Nedd4). By comparing various pentanucleotide repeats in this particular locus among control Japanese and Caucasian populations, it was found that (TGGAA)n was the only sequence segregating with SCA31, strongly suggesting the pathogenicity of (TGGAA)n. The complex repeat also lies in an intron of another gene, TK2 (thymidine kinase 2), which is transcribed in the opposite direction, indicating that the complex repeat is bi-directionally transcribed as noncoding repeats. In SCA31 human brains, (UGGAA)n, the BEAN1 transcript of SCA31 mutation was found to form abnormal RNA structures called RNA foci in cerebellar Purkinje cell nuclei. Subsequent RNA pulldown analysis disclosed that (UGGAA)n binds to RNA-binding proteins TDP-43, FUS, and hnRNP A2/B1. In fact, TDP-43 was found to co-localize with RNA foci in human SCA31 Purkinje cells. To dissect the pathogenesis of (UGGAA)n in SCA31, we generated transgenic fly models of SCA31 by overexpressing SCA31 complex pentanucleotide repeats in Drosophila. We found that the toxicity of (UGGAA)n is length- and expression level-dependent, and it was dampened by co-expressing TDP-43, FUS, and hnRNP A2/B1. Further investigation revealed that TDP-43 ameliorates (UGGAA)n toxicity by directly fixing the abnormal structure of (UGGAA)n. This led us to propose that TDP-43 acts as an RNA chaperone against toxic (UGGAA)n. Further research on the role of RNA-binding proteins as RNA chaperones may provide a novel therapeutic strategy for SCA31.


Ataxia; Drosophila; Neurodegeneration; RNA chaperone; RNA foci; RNA-binding protein; TDP-43; cerebellum; non-coding repeat; repeat-associated translation

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