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Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Jun 1;46(10):4833-4844. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky249.

Antisense oligonucleotides correct the familial dysautonomia splicing defect in IKBKAP transgenic mice.

Author information

1
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, USA.
2
Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
3
Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY 11790, USA.
4
Department of Neurology, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, Nagoya 466-8550, Japan.
5
Institute of Neuroscience, Soochow University, Suzhou, Jiangsu 215123, China.
6
Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA.

Abstract

Familial dysautonomia (FD) is a rare inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by a point mutation in the IKBKAP gene that results in defective splicing of its pre-mRNA. The mutation weakens the 5' splice site of exon 20, causing this exon to be skipped, thereby introducing a premature termination codon. Though detailed FD pathogenesis mechanisms are not yet clear, correcting the splicing defect in the relevant tissue(s), thus restoring normal expression levels of the full-length IKAP protein, could be therapeutic. Splice-switching antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) can be effective targeted therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases, such as nusinersen (Spinraza), an approved drug for spinal muscular atrophy. Using a two-step screen with ASOs targeting IKBKAP exon 20 or the adjoining intronic regions, we identified a lead ASO that fully restored exon 20 splicing in FD patient fibroblasts. We also characterized the corresponding cis-acting regulatory sequences that control exon 20 splicing. When administered into a transgenic FD mouse model, the lead ASO promoted expression of full-length human IKBKAP mRNA and IKAP protein levels in several tissues tested, including the central nervous system. These findings provide insights into the mechanisms of IKBKAP exon 20 recognition, and pre-clinical proof of concept for an ASO-based targeted therapy for FD.

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