Antisense targeting of 3' end elements involved in DUX4 mRNA processing is an efficient therapeutic strategy for facioscapulohumeral dystrophy: a new gene-silencing approach

Hum Mol Genet. 2016 Apr 15;25(8):1468-78. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddw015. Epub 2016 Jan 19.


Defects in mRNA 3'end formation have been described to alter transcription termination, transport of the mRNA from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, stability of the mRNA and translation efficiency. Therefore, inhibition of polyadenylation may lead to gene silencing. Here, we choose facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD) as a model to determine whether or not targeting key 3' end elements involved in mRNA processing using antisense oligonucleotide drugs can be used as a strategy for gene silencing within a potentially therapeutic context. FSHD is a gain-of-function disease characterized by the aberrant expression of the Double homeobox 4 (DUX4) transcription factor leading to altered pathogenic deregulation of multiple genes in muscles. Here, we demonstrate that targeting either the mRNA polyadenylation signal and/or cleavage site is an efficient strategy to down-regulate DUX4 expression and to decrease the abnormally high-pathological expression of genes downstream of DUX4. We conclude that targeting key functional 3' end elements involved in pre-mRNA to mRNA maturation with antisense drugs can lead to efficient gene silencing and is thus a potentially effective therapeutic strategy for at least FSHD. Moreover, polyadenylation is a crucial step in the maturation of almost all eukaryotic mRNAs, and thus all mRNAs are virtually eligible for this antisense-mediated knockdown strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Down-Regulation
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Silencing
  • Homeodomain Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Morpholinos / chemical synthesis*
  • Morpholinos / pharmacology
  • Morpholinos / therapeutic use
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral / therapy*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / chemical synthesis*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / pharmacology
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / therapeutic use
  • Polyadenylation / drug effects
  • RNA Precursors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • RNA Precursors / chemistry
  • Signal Transduction


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • DUX4L1 protein, human
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Morpholinos
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • RNA Precursors