A C9ORF72 BAC mouse model recapitulates key epigenetic perturbations of ALS/FTD

Rustam Esanov, Gabriela Toro Cabrera, Nadja S. Andrade, Tania F. Gendron, Robert H. Brown, Michael Benatar, Claes Wahlestedt, Christian Mueller, Zane Zeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal and progressive neurodegenerative disorder with identified genetic causes representing a significant minority of all cases. A GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat expansion (HRE) mutation within the C9ORF72 gene has recently been identified as the most frequent known cause of ALS. The expansion leads to partial heterochromatinization of the locus, yet mutant RNAs and dipeptide repeat proteins (DPRs) are still produced in sufficient quantities to confer neurotoxicity. The levels of these toxic HRE products positively correlate with cellular toxicity and phenotypic severity across multiple disease models. Moreover, the degree of epigenetic repression inversely correlates with some facets of clinical presentation in C9-ALS patients. Recently, bacterial artificial chromosomes (BAC) have been used to generate transgenic mice that harbor the HRE mutation, complementing other relevant model systems such as patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). While epigenetic features of the HRE have been investigated in various model systems and post-mortem tissues, epigenetic dysregulation at the expanded locus in C9-BAC mice remains unexplored. Methods and Results: Here, we sought to determine whether clinically relevant epigenetic perturbations caused by the HRE are mirrored in a C9-BAC mouse model. We used complementary DNA methylation assessment and immunoprecipitation methods to demonstrate that epigenetic aberrations caused by the HRE, such as DNA and histone methylation, are recapitulated in the C9-BAC mice. Strikingly, we found that cytosine hypermethylation within the promoter region of the human transgene occurred in a subset of C9-BAC mice similar to what is observed in patient populations. Moreover, we show that partial heterochromatinization of the C9 HRE occurs during the first weeks of the mouse lifespan, indicating age-dependent epigenetic repression. Using iPSC neurons, we found that preventing R-loop formation did not impede heterochromatinization of the HRE. Conclusions: Taken together, these observations provide further insight into mechanism and developmental time-course of epigenetic perturbations conferred by the C9ORF72 HRE. Finally, we suggest that epigenetic repression of the C9ORF72 HRE and nearby gene promoter could impede or delay motor neuron degeneration in C9-BAC mouse models of ALS/FTD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number46
JournalMolecular neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 12 2017


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • C9ORF72 BAC mouse
  • DNA methylation
  • Hydroxymethylation
  • Induced pluripotent stem cells
  • R-loops

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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