Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by a CTG repeat expansion located in the 3' UTR of the DMPK gene. Expanded DMPK transcripts aggregate into nuclear foci and alter the function of RNA-binding proteins, leading to defects in the alternative splicing of numerous pre-mRNAs. To date, there is no curative treatment for DM1. Here we investigated a gene-editing strategy using the CRISPR-Cas9 system from Staphylococcus aureus (Sa) to delete the CTG repeats in the human DMPK locus. Co-expression of SaCas9 and selected pairs of single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) in cultured DM1 patient-derived muscle line cells carrying 2,600 CTG repeats resulted in targeted DNA deletion, ribonucleoprotein foci disappearance, and correction of splicing abnormalities in various transcripts. Furthermore, a single intramuscular injection of recombinant AAV vectors expressing CRISPR-SaCas9 components in the tibialis anterior muscle of DMSXL (myotonic dystrophy mouse line carrying the human DMPK gene with >1,000 CTG repeats) mice decreased the number of pathological RNA foci in myonuclei. These results establish the proof of concept that genome editing of a large trinucleotide expansion is feasible in muscle and may represent a useful strategy to be further developed for the treatment of myotonic dystrophy.
Keywords: CRISPR-Cas9; DMPK; gene therapy; myotonic dystrophy; nucleotide repeat disorders.
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