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ATP8B1 deficiency is a severe autosomal recessive liver disease resulting from mutations in the ATP8B1 gene characterized by a continuous phenotypical spectrum from intermittent (benign recurrent intrahepatic cholestasis; BRIC) to progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC). Current therapeutic options are insufficient, and elucidating the molecular consequences of mutations could lead to personalized mutation-specific therapies. We investigated the effect on pre-messenger RNA splicing of 14 ATP8B1 mutations at exon-intron boundaries using an in vitro minigene system. Eleven mutations, mostly associated with a PFIC phenotype, resulted in aberrant splicing and a complete absence of correctly spliced product. In contrast, three mutations led to partially correct splicing and were associated with a BRIC phenotype. These findings indicate an inverse correlation between the level of correctly spliced product and disease severity. Expression of modified U1 small nuclear RNAs (snRNA) complementary to the splice donor sites strongly improved or completely rescued splicing for several ATP8B1 mutations located at donor, as well as acceptor, splice sites. In one case, we also evaluated exon-specific U1 snRNAs that, by targeting nonconserved intronic sequences, might reduce possible off-target events. Although very effective in correcting exon skipping, they also induced retention of the short downstream intron. We systematically characterized the molecular consequences of 14 ATP8B1 mutations at exon-intron boundaries associated with ATP8B1 deficiency and found that the majority resulted in total exon skipping. The amount of correctly spliced product inversely correlated with disease severity. Compensatory modified U1 snRNAs, complementary to mutated donor splice sites, were able to improve exon definition very efficiently and could be a novel therapeutic strategy in ATP8B1 deficiency as well as other genetic diseases. © 2014 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.


Wendy L van der Woerd, Johanna Mulder, Franco Pagani, Ulrich Beuers, Roderick H J Houwen, Stan F J van de Graaf. Analysis of aberrant pre-messenger RNA splicing resulting from mutations in ATP8B1 and efficient in vitro rescue by adapted U1 small nuclear RNA. Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.). 2015 Apr;61(4):1382-91

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PMID: 25421123

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