R loops are transient three-stranded nucleic acid structures that form physiologically during transcription when a nascent RNA transcript hybridizes with the DNA template strand, leaving a single strand of displaced nontemplate DNA. However, aberrant persistence of R-loops can cause DNA damage by inducing genomic instability. Indeed, evidence has emerged that R-loops might represent a key element in the pathogenesis of human diseases, including cancer, neurodegeneration, and motor neuron disorders. Mutations in genes directly involved in R-loop biology, such as SETX (senataxin), or unstable DNA expansion eliciting R-loop generation, such as C9ORF72 HRE, can cause DNA damage and ultimately result in motor neuron cell death. In this review, we discuss current advancements in this field with a specific focus on motor neuron diseases associated with deregulation of R-loop structures. These mechanisms can represent novel therapeutic targets for these devastating, incurable diseases.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- DNA damage
- Motor neuron disease
- Spinal muscular atrophy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience