ETS1 regulates the expression of ATXN2

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Spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by the expansion of a CAG tract in the ATXN2 gene. The SCA2 phenotype is characterized by cerebellar ataxia, neuropathy and slow saccades. SCA2 foreshortens life span and is currently without symptomatic or disease-modifying treatments. Identifying function-specific therapeutics for SCA2 is problematic due to the limited knowledge of ATXN2 function. As SCA2 is likely caused by a gain-of-toxic or gain-of-normal function like other polyglutamine disorders, targeting ATXN2 expression may represent a valid therapeutic approach. This study characterized aspects of ATXN2 expression control using an ATXN2 promoter-luciferase (luc) reporter construct. We verified the fidelity of construct expression by generating transgenic mice expressing the reporter construct. High reporter expression was seen in the cerebellum and olfactory bulb in vivo but there was relatively low expression in other tissues, similar to the expression of endogenous ataxin-2. We verified the second of two possible start codons as the functional start codon in ATXN2. By evaluating deletions in the ATXN2 promoter, we identified an E-twenty six (ETS)-binding site required for ATXN2 expression. We verified that endogenous ETS1 interacted with the ATXN2 promoter by an electromobility supershift assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation polymerase chain reaction. ETS1 overexpression increased ATXN2-luc (ATXN2-luciferase) as well as endogenous ATXN2 expression. Deletion of the putative ETS1-binding site abrogated the effects on the expression of ATXN2-luc. A dominant negative ETS1 and an ETS1 short-hairpin RNA both reduced ATXN2-luc expression. Our study broadens the understanding on the transcriptional control of ATXN2 and reveals specific regulatory features of the ATXN2 promoter that can be exploited therapeutically.

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