Oligonucleotides Targeting DNA Repeats Downregulate Huntingtin Gene Expression in Huntington's Patient-Derived Neural Model System

Nucleic Acid Ther. 2021 Dec;31(6):443-456. doi: 10.1089/nat.2021.0021. Epub 2021 Sep 13.


Huntington's disease (HD) is one of the most common, dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disorders. It affects the striatum, cerebral cortex, and other subcortical structures leading to involuntary movement abnormalities, emotional disturbances, and cognitive impairments. HD is caused by a CAG•CTG trinucleotide-repeat expansion in exon 1 of the huntingtin (HTT) gene leading to the formation of mutant HTT (mtHTT) protein aggregates. Besides the toxicity of the mutated protein, there is also evidence that mtHTT transcripts contribute to the disease. Thus, the reduction of both mutated mRNA and protein would be most beneficial as a treatment. Previously, we designed a novel anti-gene oligonucleotide (AGO)-based strategy directly targeting the HTT trinucleotide-repeats in DNA and reported downregulation of mRNA and protein in HD patient fibroblasts. In this study, we differentiate HD patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells to investigate the efficacy of the AGO, a DNA/Locked Nucleic Acid mixmer with phosphorothioate backbone, to modulate HTT transcription during neural in vitro development. For the first time, we demonstrate downregulation of HTT mRNA following both naked and magnetofected delivery into neural stem cells (NSCs) and show that neither emergence of neural rosette structures nor self-renewal of NSCs is compromised. Furthermore, the inhibition potency of both HTT mRNA and protein without off-target effects is confirmed in neurons. These results further validate an anti-gene approach for the treatment of HD.

Keywords: anti-gene; antisense; gene therapy; gymnosis; human induced pluripotent stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Huntingtin Protein / genetics
  • Huntington Disease* / genetics
  • Huntington Disease* / therapy
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Trinucleotide Repeat Expansion / genetics


  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Oligonucleotides
  • DNA