Expanded CUG triplet repeats carrying mRNA seem to be responsible for myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1). To study the pathogenesis of DM1, we constructed a DM1 cell culture model using a PC12 neuronal cell line and screened flavonoids that ameliorate this mRNA gain of function. The expanded 250 CTG repeat was subcloned into the 3′-untranslated region of the luciferase gene yielding a stable transformant of PC12 (CTG-250). The cytotoxicity of CTG-250 was evaluated by intracellular LDH activity, and the cis-effect by luciferase activity. To find agents that alter CTG-250 toxic effects, 235 bioflavonoids were screened. An increased cis-effect and cytotoxicity were found when CTG-250 was treated with nerve growth factor to induce differentiation. Western blotting with anti-caspase-3 antibody suggested that cell death was caused by apoptosis. Screening analysis confirmed that a flavone (toringin), an isoflavones (genistein and formononetin), a flavanone (isosakuranetin), and DHEA-S prevent both the cytotoxicity and cis-effect of CTG-250 and that a flavanone (naringenin), isoflavone (ononin), and xanthylatin strongly inhibit the cis-effect of CTG repeats. In conclusion, we found that this neuronal cell line, which expresses the CUG repeat-bearing mRNA, showed cis-effects through the reporter gene and neuronal death after cell differentiation in vitro. However, some flavonoids and DHEA-S inhibit both the cis-effect and cytotoxicity, indicating that their chemical structures work to ameliorate both these toxic effects. This system makes it easy to evaluate the toxic effects of expanded CTG repeats and therefore should be useful for screening other DM1 treatments for their efficacies.
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