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PLOS Biology  2012 

Glutamine-Expanded Ataxin-7 Alters TFTC/STAGA Recruitment and Chromatin Structure Leading to Photoreceptor Dysfunction

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040067

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Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7) is one of several inherited neurodegenerative disorders caused by a polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion, but it is the only one in which the retina is affected. Increasing evidence suggests that transcriptional alterations contribute to polyQ pathogenesis, although the mechanism is unclear. We previously demonstrated that theSCA7 gene product, ataxin-7 (ATXN7), is a subunit of the GCN5 histone acetyltransferase–containing coactivator complexes TFTC/STAGA. We show here that TFTC/STAGA complexes purified from SCA7 mice have normal TRRAP, GCN5, TAF12, and SPT3 levels and that their histone or nucleosomal acetylation activities are unaffected. However, rod photoreceptors from SCA7 mouse models showed severe chromatin decondensation. In agreement, polyQ-expanded ataxin-7 induced histone H3 hyperacetylation, resulting from an increased recruitment of TFTC/STAGA to specific promoters. Surprisingly, hyperacetylated genes were transcriptionally down-regulated, and expression analysis revealed that nearly all rod-specific genes were affected, leading to visual impairment in SCA7 mice. In conclusion, we describe here a set of events accounting for SCA7 pathogenesis in the retina, in which polyQ-expanded ATXN7 deregulated TFTC/STAGA recruitment to a subset of genes specifically expressed in rod photoreceptors, leading to chromatin alterations and consequent progressive loss of rod photoreceptor function.


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