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Mono- and Biallelic Inactivation of Huntingtin Gene in Patient-Specific Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Reveal HTT Roles in Striatal Development and Neuronal Functions.

BACKGROUND: Mutations in the Huntingtin (HTT) gene cause Huntington's disease (HD), a neurodegenerative disorder. As a scaffold protein, HTT is involved in numerous cellular functions, but its normal and pathogenic functions during human forebrain development are poorly understood.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the developmental component of HD, with a specific emphasis on understanding the functions of wild-type and mutant HTT alleles during forebrain neuron development in individuals carrying HD mutations.

METHODS: We used CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to disrupt the ATG region of the HTT gene via non-homologous end joining to produce mono- or biallelic HTT knock-out human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) clones.

RESULTS: We showed that the loss of wild-type, mutant, or both HTT isoforms does not affect the pluripotency of iPSCs or their transition into neural cells. However, we observed that HTT loss causes division impairments in forebrain neuro-epithelial cells and alters maturation of striatal projecting neurons (SPNs) particularly in the acquisition of DARPP32 expression, a key functional marker of SPNs. Finally, young post-mitotic neurons derived from HTT-/- human iPSCs display cellular dysfunctions observed in adult HD neurons.

CONCLUSIONS: We described a novel collection of isogenic clones with mono- and biallelic HTT inactivation that complement existing HD-hPSC isogenic series to explore HTT functions and test therapeutic strategies in particular HTT-lowering drugs. Characterizing neural and neuronal derivatives from human iPSCs of this collection, we show evidence that HTT loss or mutation has impacts neuro-epithelial and striatal neurons maturation, and on basal DNA damage and BDNF axonal transport in post-mitotic neurons.

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