Motor neuron disorders, and particularly amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are fatal diseases that are due to the loss of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, with progressive paralysis and premature death. It has been recently shown that the most frequent genetic cause of ALS, frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and other neurological diseases is the expansion of a hexanucleotide repeat (GGGGCC) in the non-coding region of the C9ORF72 gene. The pathogenic mechanisms that produce cell death in the presence of this expansion are still unclear. One of the most likely hypotheses seems to be the gain-of-function that is achieved through the production of toxic RNA (able to sequester RNA-binding protein) and/or toxic proteins. In recent works, different authors have reported that antisense oligonucleotides complementary to the C9ORF72 RNA transcript sequence were able to significantly reduce RNA foci generated by the expanded RNA, in affected cells. Here, we summarize the recent findings that support the idea that the buildup of “toxic” RNA containing the GGGGCC repeat contributes to the death of motor neurons in ALS and also suggest that the use of antisense oligonucleotides targeting this transcript is a promising strategy for treating ALS/frontotemporal lobe dementia (FTLD) patients with the C9ORF72 repeat expansion. These data are particularly important, given the state of the art antisense technology, and they allow researchers to believe that a clinical application of these discoveries will be possible soon.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Antisense oligonucleotides
- C9ORF72 gene
- Repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN)-initiated translation peptides
- RNA foci
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience