Myotonic dystrophy (DM), the most common form of muscular dystrophy in adult humans, results from expansion of a CTG repeat in the 3' untranslated region of the DMPK gene. The mutant DMPK messenger RNA (mRNA) contains an expanded CUG repeat and is retained in the nucleus. We have expressed an untranslated CUG repeat in an unrelated mRNA in transgenic mice. Mice that expressed expanded CUG repeats developed myotonia and myopathy, whereas mice expressing a nonexpanded repeat did not. Thus, transcripts with expanded CUG repeats are sufficient to generate a DM phenotype. This result supports a role for RNA gain of function in disease pathogenesis.
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