Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy (OPMD) is a late onset disease caused by polyalanine expansion in the poly(A) binding protein nuclear 1 (PABPN1). Several mouse models have been generated to study OPMD; however, most of these models have employed transgenic overexpression of alanine-expanded PABPN1. These models do not recapitulate the OPMD patient genotype and PABPN1 overexpression could confound molecular phenotypes. We have developed a knock-in mouse model of OPMD (Pabpn1+/A17) that contains one alanine-expanded Pabpn1 allele under the control of the native promoter and one wild-type Pabpn1 allele. This mouse is the closest available genocopy of OPMD patients. We show that Pabpn1+/A17 mice have a mild myopathic phenotype in adult and aged animals. We examined early molecular and biochemical phenotypes associated with expressing native levels of A17-PABPN1 and detected shorter poly(A) tails, modest changes in poly(A) signal (PAS) usage, and evidence of mitochondrial damage in these mice. Recent studies have suggested that a loss of PABPN1 function could contribute to muscle pathology in OPMD. To investigate a loss of function model of pathology, we generated a heterozygous Pabpn1 knock-out mouse model (Pabpn1+/Δ). Like the Pabpn1+/A17 mice, Pabpn1+/Δ mice have mild histologic defects, shorter poly(A) tails, and evidence of mitochondrial damage. However, the phenotypes detected in Pabpn1+/Δ mice only partially overlap with those detected in Pabpn1+/A17 mice. These results suggest that loss of PABPN1 function could contribute to but may not completely explain the pathology detected in Pabpn1+/A17 mice.
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