Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive motor neuron loss and caused by mutations in SMN1 (Survival Motor Neuron 1). The disease severity inversely correlates with the copy number of SMN2, a duplicated gene that is nearly identical to SMN1. We have delineated a mechanism of transcriptional regulation in the SMN2 locus. A previously uncharacterized long noncoding RNA (lncRNA), SMN-antisense 1 (SMN-AS1), represses SMN2 expression by recruiting the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) to its locus. Chemically modified oligonucleotides that disrupt the interaction between SMN-AS1 and PRC2 inhibit the recruitment of PRC2 and increase SMN2 expression in primary neuronal cultures. Our approach comprises a gene-up-regulation technology that leverages interactions between lncRNA and PRC2. Our data provide proof-of-concept that this technology can be used to treat disease caused by epigenetic silencing of specific loci.
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