Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Molecular biology of progressive myoclonus epilepsy of Unverricht-Lundborg type (EPM1)

Kirsi Alakurtti

Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Haartman Institute, Department of Medical Genetics and Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics; University of Helsinki, Neuroscience Center .

Progressive myoclonus epilepsy of Unverricht-Lundborg type (EPM1) is an autosomal recessively inherited disorder characterized by age of onset at 6-15 years, stimulus-sensitive myoclonus, tonic-clonic epileptic seizures and a progressive course. Mutations in the cystatin B (CSTB) gene underlie EPM1. The most common mutation underlying EPM1 is a dodecamer repeat expansion in the promoter region of CSTB. In addition, nine other mutations have been identified. CSTB, a cysteine protease inhibitor, is a ubiquitously expressed inhibitor of cathepsins, but its physiological function is unknown. The purpose of this study was to investigate CSTB gene expression and CSTB protein function in normal and pathological conditions.

The basal CSTB promoter was mapped and characterized using different promoter-luciferase gene constructs. The binding activity of transcription factors to one ARE half, five Sp1 and four AP1 sites in the CSTB promoter was demonstrated. The CSTB promoter activity was clearly decreased using a CSTB promoter with "premutation" repeat expansions and in individuals with alike expansions. The expression of CSTB mRNA and protein was markedly reduced in patient cells. The endogenous CSTB protein localized to the nucleus, cytoplasm and lysosomes, and in differentiated cells merely to the cytoplasm. This suggests that the subcellular distribution of CSTB is dependent on the differentation status of the cells. The proteins representing patient missense mutations failed to associate with lysosomes, implying the importance of the lysosomal association for the proper physiological function of CSTB.

Several alternatively spliced CSTB isoforms were identified. Of these CSTB2 was widely expressed with very low levels whereas the other alternatively spliced forms seemed to have limited tissue expression. In patients CSTB2 expression was reduced similarly to that of CSTB. The physiological relevance of CSTB alternative splicing remains unknown.

The mouse Cstb transcript was shown to be present in all embryonic stages and adult tissues examined. The expression was highest at embryonic day 7 and in thymus, as well as in postnatal brain in the cortex, caudate putamen, thalamus, hippocampus, and in the Purkinje cell layer of the cerebellum. Our data implies that CSTB expression is tightly temporally and spatially regulated.

The data presented in my thesis lay the basis for further understanding of the role of CSTB in health and disease.

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Last updated 16.11.2006

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