The expansion of CAG/CTG repeats is responsible for many diseases, including Huntington’s disease (HD) and myotonic dystrophy 1. CAG/CTG expansions are unstable in selective somatic tissues, which accelerates disease progression. The mechanisms underlying repeat instability are complex, and it remains unclear whether chromatin structure and/or transcription contribute to somatic CAG/CTG instability in vivo. To address these issues, we investigated the relationship between CAG instability, chromatin structure, and transcription at the HD locus using the R6/1 and R6/2 HD transgenic mouse lines. These mice express a similar transgene, albeit integrated at a different site, and recapitulate HD tissue-specific instability. We show that instability rates are increased in R6/2 tissues as compared to R6/1 matched-samples. High transgene expression levels and chromatin accessibility correlated with the increased CAG instability of R6/2 mice. Transgene mRNA and H3K4 trimethylation at the HD locus were increased, whereas H3K9 dimethylation was reduced in R6/2 tissues relative to R6/1 matched-tissues. However, the levels of transgene expression and these specific histone marks were similar in the striatum and cerebellum, two tissues showing very different CAG instability levels, irrespective of mouse line. Interestingly, the levels of elongating RNA Pol II at the HD locus, but not the initiating form of RNA Pol II, were tissue-specific and correlated with CAG instability levels. Similarly, H3K36 trimethylation, a mark associated with transcription elongation, was specifically increased at the HD locus in the striatum and not in the cerebellum. Together, our data support the view that transcription modulates somatic CAG instability in vivo. More specifically, our results suggest for the first time that transcription elongation is regulated in a tissue-dependent manner, contributing to tissue-selective CAG instability.
Source: plos Genetics