DNAzyme Cleavage of CAG Repeat RNA in Polyglutamine Diseases

Nan Zhang, Brittani Bewick, Jason Schultz, Anjana Tiwari, Robert Krencik, Aijun Zhang, Kaho Adachi, Guangbin Xia, Kyuson Yun, Partha Sarkar, Tetsuo Ashizawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


CAG repeat expansion is the genetic cause of nine incurable polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases with neurodegenerative features. Silencing repeat RNA holds great therapeutic value. Here, we developed a repeat-based RNA-cleaving DNAzyme that catalyzes the destruction of expanded CAG repeat RNA of six polyQ diseases with high potency. DNAzyme preferentially cleaved the expanded allele in spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) cells. While cleavage was non-allele-specific for spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3) cells, treatment of DNAzyme leads to improved cell viability without affecting mitochondrial metabolism or p62-dependent aggresome formation. DNAzyme appears to be stable in mouse brain for at least 1 month, and an intermediate dosage of DNAzyme in a SCA3 mouse model leads to a significant reduction of high molecular weight ATXN3 proteins. Our data suggest that DNAzyme is an effective RNA silencing molecule for potential treatment of multiple polyQ diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1710-1728
Number of pages19
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • CAG repeats
  • DNAzyme
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Microsatellite expansion
  • Polyglutamine
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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