Expanded GAA repeats impede transcription elongation through the FXN gene and induce transcriptional silencing that is restricted to the FXN locus

Academic Article


  • Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is a severe neurodegenerative disease caused by homozygous expansion of the guanine-adenineadenine (GAA) repeats in intron 1 of the FXN gene leading to transcriptional repression of frataxin expression. Post-translational histone modifications that typify heterochromatin are enriched in the vicinity of the repeats, whereas active chromatin marks in this region are underrepresented in FRDA samples. Yet, the immediate effect of the expanded repeats on transcription progression through FXN and their long-range effect on the surrounding genomic context are two critical questions that remain unanswered in the molecular pathogenesis of FRDA. To address these questions, we conducted next-generation RNA sequencing of a large cohort of FRDA and control primary fibroblasts. This comprehensive analysis revealed that the GAAinduced silencing effect does not influence expression of neighboring genes upstream or downstream of FXN. Furthermore, no long-range silencing effects were detected across a large portion of chromosome 9. Additionally, results of chromatin immunoprecipitation studies confirmed that histone modifications associated with repressed transcription are confined to the FXN locus. Finally, deep sequencing of FXN pre-mRNA molecules revealed a pronounced defect in the transcription elongation rate in FRDA cells when compared with controls. These results indicate that approaches aimed to reactivate frataxin expression should simultaneously address deficits in transcription initiation and elongation at the FXN locus.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Li Y; Lu Y; Polak U; Lin K; Shen J; Farmer J; Seyer L; Bhalla AD; Rozwadowska N; Lynch DR
  • Start Page

  • 6932
  • End Page

  • 6943
  • Volume

  • 24
  • Issue

  • 24