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Structural Perturbations of Exon-Skipping Edits within the Dystrophin D20:24 Region

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journal contribution
posted on 03.03.2021, 20:13 by Xin Niu, Nick Menhart
Exon skipping is a disease-modifying therapy in which oligonucleotide analogues mask specific exons, eliminating them from the mature mRNA, and also the cognate protein. That is one possible therapeutic aim, but it can also be used to restore the reading frame for diseases caused by frameshift mutations, which is the case for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). DMD most commonly arises as a result of large exonic deletions that create a frameshift and abolish protein expression. Loss of dystrophin protein leads to the pathology of the disease, which is severe, causing death generally in the second or third decade of life. Here, the primary aim of exon skipping is restoration of protein expression by reading frame correction. However, the therapeutically expressed protein is missing both the region of the underlying genetic defect and the therapeutically skipped exon. How removing some region from the middle of a protein affects its structure and function is unclear. Many different underlying deletions are known, and exon skipping can be applied in many ways, in some cases in different ways to the same defect. These vary in how severely perturbative they are, with possible clinical consequences. In this study, we examine a systematic, comprehensive panel of exon edits in a region of dystrophin and identify for the first time exon edits that are minimally perturbed and appear to keep the structural stability similar to that of wild-type protein. We also identify factors that appear to be correlated with how perturbative an edit is.