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New knowledge about muscular dystrophy uncovered

Date:
May 5, 2014
Source:
Aarhus University
Summary:
A previously unknown function of a cellular enzyme that can disperse toxic aggregates in the cells of patients with muscular dystrophy has been uncovered by researchers. The most common form of muscular dystrophy among adults is dystrophia myotonica type 1 (DM1), where approximately 1 in every 8000 is affected by the disease. The severity of the disease varies from mild forms to severe congenital forms. It is dominantly inherited and accumulates through generations, gaining increased severity and lowered age of onset.

The research team behind the new results of muscular dystrophy (from left): Thomas G. Jensen, Rune Thomsen, Olof Pettersson, Lars Aagaard og Christian Damgaard (Diana Andrejeva is missing in the photo).
Credit: Lisbeth Heilesen

The most common form of muscular dystrophy among adults is dystrophia myotonica type 1 (DM1), where approximately 1 in every 8000 is affected by the disease. The severity of the disease varies from mild forms to severe congenital forms. It is dominantly inherited and accumulates through generations, gaining increased severity and lowered age of onset. DM1 is characterized by accumulating toxic aggregates of ribonucleic acids (RNA) from a specific mutated gene.

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When this RNA, which contains thousands of CUG nucleotide repeats, builds up in the cell, it attracts several cellular proteins, including muscleblind 1 (MBNL1). This binding inhibits the normal function of MBNL1, which means that the cellular level of a number of specific proteins becomes deregulated and the disease develops.

Enzyme characterization in muscular dystrophy patients

The researchers work at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics and the Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, where they characterized an enzyme called DDX6, found in both normal cells and cells from muscular dystrophy patients.

The enzyme constantly tries to disperse the toxic aggregates and release MBNL1 in cells from muscular dystrophy patients, which means that the protein can carry out its normal function. The enzyme is found in many different cell types, where it performs a number of vital functions. The researchers showed that an artificial increase in the level of DDX6 in muscular dystrophy cells reduces the number of RNA aggregates, while more are formed when DDX6 is removed from the cells.

DDX6 belongs to a class of enzymes called helicases, which can change RNA structure and also regulate the ability of proteins to bind RNA. By purifying DDX6 from human cells, the researchers succeeded in getting the enzyme to bind and carry out an enzymatic reaction outside the cell, thus changing the structure of the toxic RNA.

These results indicate that DDX6 has a direct impact on toxic RNA aggregation in cells from muscular dystrophy patients in addition to its normal functions.

It remains unlikely that DDX6 can be used directly in the treatment of muscular dystrophy, since the enzyme carries out a number of important processes in the cell, which could potentially become deregulated leading to other diseases. However, the results provide important insights into the basic mechanisms of the disease, and natural differences in enzyme levels in different types of cells (or individuals) could possibly explain observed tissue-specific differences in the development of the disease.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Aarhus University. The original article was written by Lisbeth Heilesen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. O. J. Pettersson, L. Aagaard, D. Andrejeva, R. Thomsen, T. G. Jensen, C. K. Damgaard. DDX6 regulates sequestered nuclear CUG-expanded DMPK-mRNA in dystrophia myotonica type 1. Nucleic Acids Research, 2014; DOI: 10.1093/nar/gku352

Cite This Page:

Aarhus University. "New knowledge about muscular dystrophy uncovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505104355.htm>.
Aarhus University. (2014, May 5). New knowledge about muscular dystrophy uncovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505104355.htm
Aarhus University. "New knowledge about muscular dystrophy uncovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505104355.htm (accessed March 28, 2015).

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