Identification of repeat-associated non-AUG (RAN) translation in trinucleotide (CAG) repeat diseases has led to the emerging concept that CAG repeat diseases are caused by nonpolyglutamine products. Nonetheless, the in vivo contribution of RAN translation to the pathogenesis of CAG repeat diseases remains elusive. Via CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing, we established knock-in mouse models that harbor expanded CAG repeats in the mouse huntingtin gene to express RAN-translated products with or without polyglutamine peptides. We found that RAN translation is not detected in the knock-in mouse models when expanded CAG repeats are expressed at the endogenous level. Consistently, the expanded CAG repeats that cannot be translated into polyglutamine repeats do not yield the neuropathological and behavioral phenotypes that were found in knock-in mice expressing expanded polyglutamine repeats. Our findings suggest that RAN-translated products do not play a major role in the pathogenesis of CAG repeat diseases and underscore the importance in targeting polyglutamine repeats for therapeutics.
Keywords: CAG repeat; Huntington’s disease; aggregates; gene targeting; neurodegeneration.