Background: The most common form of congenital muscular dystrophy is caused by a deficiency in the alpha2 chain of laminin-211, a protein of the extracellular matrix. A wide variety of mutations, including 20 to 30% of nonsense mutations, have been identified in the corresponding gene, LAMA2. A promising approach for the treatment of genetic disorders due to premature termination codons (PTCs) is the use of drugs to force stop codon readthrough.
Methods: Here, we analyzed the effects of two compounds on a PTC in the LAMA2 gene that targets the mRNA to nonsense-mediated RNA decay, in vitro using a dual reporter assay, as well as ex vivo in patient-derived myotubes.
Results: We first showed that both gentamicin and negamycin promote significant readthrough of this PTC. We then demonstrated that the mutant mRNAs were strongly stabilized in patient-derived myotubes after administration of negamycin, but not gentamicin. Nevertheless, neither treatment allowed re-expression of the laminin alpha2-chain protein, pointing to problems that may have arisen at the translational or post-translational levels.
Conclusions: Taken together, our results emphasize that achievement of a clinical benefit upon treatment with novel readthrough-inducing agents would require several favourable conditions including PTC nucleotide context, intrinsic and induced stability of mRNA and correct synthesis of a full-length active protein.