Suppression of trinucleotide repeat expansion in spermatogenic cells in Huntington's disease

J Assist Reprod Genet. 2022 Oct;39(10):2413-2430. doi: 10.1007/s10815-022-02594-x. Epub 2022 Sep 6.


Trinucleotide repeats (TNRs) are dispersed throughout the human genome. About 20 loci are related to human diseases, such as Huntington's disease (HD). A larger TNR instability is predominantly observed in the paternal germ cells in some TNR disorders. Suppressing the expansion during spermatogenesis can provide a unique opportunity to end the vicious cycle of genetic anticipation. Here, using an in vitro differentiation method to derive advanced spermatogenic cells, we investigated the efficacy of two therapeutic agents, araC (cytarabine) and aspirin, on stabilizing TNRs in spermatogenic cells. Two WT patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines and two HD hiPSC lines, with 44 Q and 180 Q, were differentiated into spermatogonial stem cell-like cells (SSCLCs). Both HD cell lines showed CAG tract expansion in SSCLC. When treated with araC and aspirin, HD1 showed moderate but not statistically significant stabilization of TNR. In HD2, 10 nM of aspirin and araC showed significant stabilization of TNR. All cell lines showed increased DNA damage response (DDR) gene expression in SSCLCs while more genes were significantly induced in HD SSCLC. In HD1, araC and aspirin treatment showed general suppression of DNA damage response genes. In HD2, only FAN1, OGG1, and PCNA showed significant suppression. When the methylation profile of HD cells was analyzed, FAN1 and OGG1 showed significant hypermethylation after the aspirin and araC treatment in SSCLC compared to the control. This study underscores the utility of our in vitro spermatogenesis model to study and develop therapies for TNR disorders such as HD.

Keywords: Aspirin; Cytarabine (AraC); Drug discovery; Huntington’s disease; Spermatogenesis; Trinucleotide repeats.

MeSH terms

  • Aspirin
  • Cytarabine
  • Germ Cells
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease* / drug therapy
  • Huntington Disease* / genetics
  • Male
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / genetics
  • Trinucleotide Repeat Expansion* / genetics
  • Trinucleotide Repeats / genetics


  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen
  • Cytarabine
  • Aspirin