Neurology Central

The role of epigenomics in the neurodegeneration of ataxia-telangiectasia


Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) is a multisystem disease characterized by neurodegeneration in the CNS [1–5]. The earliest and most profound neuropathology involves the Purkinje and granule cells of the cerebellum. A-T is caused by mutation of the A-T mutated (ATM) gene, which is ubiquitously expressed throughout development and encodes a serine/threonine protein kinase of the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase-related kinase family [6]. A-T is classified as a rare neurodegenerative disease, mainly impacting on cerebellum integrity and functioning, resulting in a progressive deterioration of motor functional capabilities [5]. Moreover, since there is currently no effective treatment to cure or even slow down the rate of cerebellar neurodegeneration, A-T significantly decreases life quality of those suffering from it. The best-known function of ATM is to ensure the integrity of the genome. After DNA damage, ATM activates cell cycle checkpoints, arresting the cycle until DNA repair is complete [7]. Its role in maintaining the health and survival of neurons is complex. Consistent with its function in DNA damage repair [8], ATM protects postmitotic neurons from degeneration by suppressing the cell cycle [9–11]. While non-neurological phenotypes are also found, including immune system defects, germ cell defects, hypersensitivity to ionizing radiation and increased susceptibility to, it is the origins of the CNS motor phenotypes of A-T that are the most poorly understood. Yet the pathway that leads from these defects to neuronal cell loss and the other classical neurological phenotypes remains unknown.

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