Original Investigation

Human Genetics

, Volume 120, Issue 1, pp 101-110

The benzamide M344, a novel histone deacetylase inhibitor, significantly increases SMN2 RNA/protein levels in spinal muscular atrophy cells

  • Markus RiesslandAffiliated withInstitute of Human Genetics, Institute of Genetics, and Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne, University of Cologne
  • , Lars BrichtaAffiliated withInstitute of Human Genetics, Institute of Genetics, and Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne, University of Cologne
  • , Eric HahnenAffiliated withInstitute of Human Genetics, Institute of Genetics, and Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne, University of Cologne
  • , Brunhilde WirthAffiliated withInstitute of Human Genetics, Institute of Genetics, and Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne, University of Cologne Email author 

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Abstract

Proximal spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a common autosomal recessively inherited neuromuscular disorder causing infant death in half of all patients. Homozygous loss of the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene causes SMA, whereas the number of the SMN2 copy genes modulates the severity of the disease. Due to a silent mutation within an exonic splicing enhancer, SMN2 mainly produces alternatively spliced transcripts lacking exon 7 and only ∼ 10% of a full-length protein identical to SMN1. However, SMN2 represents a promising target for an SMA therapy. The correct splicing of SMN2 can be efficiently restored by over-expression of the splicing factor Htra2-β1 as well as by exogenous factors like drugs that inhibit histone deacetylases (HDACs). Here we show that the novel benzamide M344, an HDAC inhibitor, up-regulates SMN2 protein expression in fibroblast cells derived from SMA patients up to 7-fold after 64 h of treatment. Moreover, M344 significantly raises the total number of gems/nucleus as well as the number of nuclei that contain gems. This is the strongest in vitro effect of a drug on the SMN protein level reported so far. The reversion of Δ7-SMN2 into FL-SMN2 transcripts as demonstrated by quantitative RT-PCR is most likely facilitated by elevated levels of Htra2-β1. Investigations of the cytotoxicity of M344 using an MTT assay revealed toxic cell effects only at very high concentrations. In conclusion, M344 can be considered as highly potent HDAC inhibitor which is active at low doses and therefore represents a promising candidate for a causal therapy of SMA.