Altered enhancer transcription underlies Huntington's disease striatal transcriptional signature

Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 22;7:42875. doi: 10.1038/srep42875.


Epigenetic and transcriptional alterations are both implicated in Huntington's disease (HD), a progressive neurodegenerative disease resulting in degeneration of striatal neurons in the brain. However, how impaired epigenetic regulation leads to transcriptional dysregulation in HD is unclear. Here, we investigated enhancer RNAs (eRNAs), a class of long non-coding RNAs transcribed from active enhancers. We found that eRNAs are expressed from many enhancers of mouse striatum and showed that a subset of those eRNAs are deregulated in HD vs control mouse striatum. Enhancer regions producing eRNAs decreased in HD mouse striatum were associated with genes involved in striatal neuron identity. Consistently, they were enriched in striatal super-enhancers. Moreover, decreased eRNA expression in HD mouse striatum correlated with down-regulation of associated genes. Additionally, a significant number of RNA Polymerase II (RNAPII) binding sites were lost within enhancers associated with decreased eRNAs in HD vs control mouse striatum. Together, this indicates that loss of RNAPII at HD mouse enhancers contributes to reduced transcription of eRNAs, resulting in down-regulation of target genes. Thus, our data support the view that eRNA dysregulation in HD striatum is a key mechanism leading to altered transcription of striatal neuron identity genes, through reduced recruitment of RNAPII at super-enhancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / genetics*
  • Huntington Disease / metabolism
  • Mice
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism*


  • RNA Polymerase II