Gannon AM, Frizzell A, Healy E, Lahue RS
Trinucleotide repeat (TNR) expansions cause at least 17 heritable neurological diseases, including Huntington's disease. Expansions are thought to arise from abnormal processing of TNR DNA by specific trans-acting proteins. For example, the DNA repair complex MutSβ (MSH2-MSH3 heterodimer) is required in mice for on-going expansions of long, disease-causing alleles. A distinctive feature of TNR expansions is a threshold effect, a narrow range of repeat units (∼30-40 in humans) at which mutation frequency rises dramatically and disease can initiate. The goal of this study was to identify factors that promote expansion of threshold-length CTG•CAG repeats in a human astrocytic cell line. siRNA knockdown of the MutSβ subunits MSH2 or MSH3 impeded expansions of threshold-length repeats, while knockdown of the MutSα subunit MSH6 had no effect. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments indicated that MutSβ, but not MutSα, was enriched at the TNR. These findings imply a direct role for MutSβ in promoting expansion of threshold-length CTG•CAG tracts. We identified the class II deacetylase HDAC5 as a novel promoting factor for expansions, joining the class I deacetylase HDAC3 that was previously identified. Double knockdowns were consistent with the possibility that MutSβ, HDAC3 and HDAC5 act through a common pathway to promote expansions of threshold-length TNRs.