Half a century ago, Harry Angelman reported three patients with overlapping clinical features, now well known as Angelman syndrome. Angelman syndrome is caused by mutations affecting the maternally inherited UBE3A gene, which encodes an E3-ubiquitin ligase that is critical for typical postnatal brain development. Emerging evidence indicates that UBE3A plays a particularly important role in the nucleus. However, the critical substrates that are controlled by UBE3A remain elusive, which hinders the search for effective treatments. Moreover, given the multitude of signalling mechanisms that are derailed, it is unlikely that targeting a single pathway is going to be very effective. Therefore, expectations are very high for approaches that aim to restore UBE3A protein levels. A particular promising strategy is an antisense oligonucleotide approach, which activates the silenced paternal UBE3A gene. When successful, such treatments potentially offer a disease-modifying therapy for Angelman syndrome and several other neurodevelopmental disorders. What this paper adds Loss of UBE3A affects multiple signalling pathways in the brain. Emerging evidence suggests that UBE3A plays a critical role in the cell nucleus. Trials using antisense oligonucleotides to restore UBE3A levels are continuing.
© 2021 The Authors. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Mac Keith Press.