Insights into the Genetic Profile of Two Siblings Affected by Unverricht-Lundborg Disease Using Patient-Derived hiPSCs


Unverricht-Lundborg disease (ULD), also known as progressive myoclonic epilepsy 1 (EPM1), is a rare autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a complex symptomatology that includes action- and stimulus-sensitive myoclonus and tonic-clonic seizures. The main cause of the onset and development of ULD is a repeat expansion of a dodecamer sequence localized in the promoter region of the gene encoding cystatin B (CSTB), an inhibitor of lysosomal proteases. Although this is the predominant mutation found in most patients, the physio-pathological mechanisms underlying the disease complexity remain largely unknown. In this work, we used patient-specific iPSCs and their neuronal derivatives to gain insight into the molecular and genetic machinery responsible for the disease in two Italian siblings affected by different phenotypes of ULD. Specifically, fragment length analysis on amplified CSTB promoters found homozygous status for dodecamer expansion in both patients and showed that the number of dodecamer repeats is the same in both. Furthermore, the luciferase reporter assay showed that the CSTB promoter activity was similarly reduced in both lines compared to the control. This information allowed us to draw important conclusions: (1) the phenotypic differences of the patients do not seem to be strictly dependent on the genetic mutation around the CSTB gene, and (2) that some other molecular mechanisms, not yet clearly identified, might be taken into account. In line with the inhibitory role of cystatin B on cathepsins, molecular investigations performed on iPSCs-derived neurons showed an increased expression of lysosomal cathepsins (B, D, and L) and a reduced expression of CSTB protein. Intriguingly, the increase in cathepsin expression does not appear to be correlated with the residual amount of CSTB, suggesting that other mechanisms, in addition to the regulation of cathepsins, could be involved in the pathological complexity of the disease.

Authors Lucchino V, Scaramuzzino L, Scalise S, Lo Conte M, Zannino C, Benedetto GL, Aguglia U, Ferlazzo E, Cuda G, Parrotta EI
Journal Cells
Publication Date 2022 Nov 4;11(21)
PubMed 36359887
PubMed Central PMC9655992
DOI 10.3390/cells11213491

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