Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) is an X-linked motor neuron disease caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the androgen receptor (AR) gene. Ligand-dependent nuclear accumulation of mutant AR protein is a critical characteristic of the pathogenesis of SBMA. SBMA has been modeled in AR-overexpressing animals, but precisely how the polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion leads to neurodegeneration is unclear. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are a new technology that can be used to model human diseases, study pathogenic mechanisms, and develop novel drugs. We established SBMA patient-derived iPSCs, investigated their cellular biochemical characteristics, and found that SBMA-iPSCs can differentiate into motor neurons. The CAG repeat numbers in the AR gene of SBMA-iPSCs and also in the atrophin-1 gene of iPSCs derived from another polyQ disease, dentato-rubro-pallido-luysian atrophy (DRPLA), remain unchanged during reprogramming, long term passage, and differentiation, indicating that polyQ disease-associated CAG repeats are stable during maintenance of iPSCs. The level of AR expression is up-regulated by neuronal differentiation and treatment with the AR ligand dihydrotestosterone. Filter retardation assays indicated that aggregation of ARs following dihydrotestosterone treatment in neurons derived from SBMA-iPSCs increases significantly compared with neurological control iPSCs, easily recapitulating the pathological feature of mutant ARs in SBMAiPSCs. This phenomenon was not observed in iPSCs and fibroblasts, thereby showing the neuron-dominant phenotype of this disease. Furthermore, the HSP90 inhibitor 17-allylaminogeldanamycin sharply decreased the level of aggregated AR in neurons derivedfromSBMA-iPSCs, indicatingapotentialfordiscoveryand validation of candidate drugs.Wefound that SBMA-iPSCs possess disease-specific biochemical features and could thus open new avenues of research into not only SBMA, but also other polyglutamine diseases.
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