Bečanović K, Nørremølle A, Neal SJ, Kay C, Collins JA, Arenillas D, Lilja T, Gaudenzi G, Manoharan S, Doty CN, Beck J, Lahiri N, Portales-Casamar E, Warby SC, Connolly C, De Souza RA, , Tabrizi SJ, Hermanson O, Langbehn DR, Hayden MR, Wasserman WW, Leavi
Cis-regulatory variants that alter gene expression can modify disease expressivity, but none have previously been identified in Huntington disease (HD). Here we provide in vivo evidence in HD patients that cis-regulatory variants in the HTT promoter are bidirectional modifiers of HD age of onset. HTT promoter analysis identified a NF-κB binding site that regulates HTT promoter transcriptional activity. A non-coding SNP, rs13102260:G > A, in this binding site impaired NF-κB binding and reduced HTT transcriptional activity and HTT protein expression. The presence of the rs13102260 minor (A) variant on the HD disease allele was associated with delayed age of onset in familial cases, whereas the presence of the rs13102260 (A) variant on the wild-type HTT allele was associated with earlier age of onset in HD patients in an extreme case-based cohort. Our findings suggest a previously unknown mechanism linking allele-specific effects of rs13102260 on HTT expression to HD age of onset and have implications for HTT silencing treatments that are currently in development.