Myotonic dystrophy type 2 (DM2) is caused by a CCTG expansion mutation in intron 1 of the zinc finger protein 9 (ZNF9) gene. The mean expansion size in patients is larger than for DM1 or any previously reported disorder (mean=5000 CCTGs; range=75-11 000), and similar to DM1, repeats containing ribonuclear inclusions accumulate in affected DM2 tissue. Although an RNA gain-of-function mechanism involving DM1 CUG or DM2 CCUG expansion transcripts is now well established, still debated are the potential role that flanking sequences within the DMPK 3′-UTR may have on disease pathogenesis and whether or not decreased expression of DMPK, ZNF9 or neighboring genes at these loci contribute to disease. To address these questions in DM2, we have examined the nucleic acid content of the ribonuclear inclusions and the effects of these large expansions on ZNF9 expression. Using cell lines either haploid or homozygous for the expansion, as well as skeletal muscle biopsy tissue, we demonstrate that pre-mRNAs containing large CCUG expansions are normally spliced and exported from the nucleus, that the expansions do not decrease ZNF9 expression at the mRNA or protein level, and that the ribonuclear inclusions are enriched for the CCUG expansion, but not intronic flanking sequences. These data suggest that the downstream molecular effects of the DM2 mutation are triggered by the accumulation of CCUG repeat tract alone.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Joline Dalton, Anne Mosemiller and Danielle Jin for helpful discussions and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Nash Avery Fund and the National Institutes of Health (NS035870) for financial support. Funding to pay the Open Access publication charges for this article was provided by the Nash Avery Fund.