A knockin mouse model of spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 exhibits prominent aggregate pathology and aberrant splicing of the disease gene transcript

Hum Mol Genet. 2015 Mar 1;24(5):1211-24. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddu532. Epub 2014 Oct 15.


Polyglutamine diseases, including spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3), are caused by CAG repeat expansions that encode abnormally long glutamine repeats in the respective disease proteins. While the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration remain uncertain, evidence supports a proteotoxic role for the mutant protein dictated in part by the specific genetic and protein context. To further define pathogenic mechanisms in SCA3, we generated a mouse model in which a CAG expansion of 82 repeats was inserted into the murine locus by homologous recombination. SCA3 knockin mice exhibit region-specific aggregate pathology marked by intranuclear accumulation of the mutant Atxn3 protein, abundant nuclear inclusions and, in select brain regions, extranuclear aggregates localized to neuritic processes. Knockin mice also display altered splicing of the disease gene, promoting expression of an alternative isoform in which the intron immediately downstream of the CAG repeat is retained. In an independent mouse model expressing the full human ATXN3 disease gene, expression of this alternatively spliced transcript is also enhanced. These results, together with recent findings in other polyglutamine diseases, suggest that CAG repeat expansions can promote aberrant splicing to produce potentially more aggregate-prone isoforms of the disease proteins. This report of a SCA3 knockin mouse expands the repertoire of existing models of SCA3, and underscores the potential contribution of alternative splicing to disease pathogenesis in SCA3 and other polyglutamine disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing*
  • Animals
  • Ataxin-3
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Exons
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gene Knock-In Techniques
  • Genetic Loci
  • Humans
  • Machado-Joseph Disease / genetics*
  • Machado-Joseph Disease / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutant Proteins / genetics
  • Mutant Proteins / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Up-Regulation


  • Mutant Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • ATXN3 protein, human
  • Ataxin-3
  • Atxn3 protein, mouse