R-loop formation at Snord116 mediates topotecan inhibition of Ube3a-antisense and allele-specific chromatin decondensation

Weston T. Powell, Rochelle L. Coulson, Michael L. Gonzales, Florence K. Crary, Spencer S. Wong, Sarrita Adams, Robert A. Ach, Peter Tsang, Nazumi Alice Yamada, Dag H. Yasui, Frederic Chedin, Janine M LaSalle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) and Angelman syndrome (AS) are oppositely imprinted autism-spectrum disorders with known genetic bases, but complex epigenetic mechanisms underlie their pathogenesis. The PWS/AS locus on 15q11-q13 is regulated by an imprinting control region that is maternally methylated and silenced. The PWS imprinting control region is the promoter for a one megabase paternal transcript encoding the ubiquitous protein-coding Snrpn gene and multiple neuron-specific noncoding RNAs, including the PWS-related Snord116 repetitive locus of small nucleolar RNAs and host genes, and the antisense transcript to AScausing ubiquitin ligase encoding Ube3a (Ube3a-ATS). Neuronspecific transcriptional progression through Ube3a-ATS correlates with paternal Ube3a silencing and chromatin decondensation. Interestingly, topoisomerase inhibitors, including topotecan, were recently identified in an unbiased drug screen for compounds that could reverse the silent paternal allele of Ube3a in neurons, but the mechanism of topotecan action on the PWS/AS locus is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that topotecan treatment stabilizes the formation of RNA:DNA hybrids (R loops) at G-skewed repeat elements within paternal Snord116, corresponding to increased chromatin decondensation and inhibition of Ube3a-ATS expression. Neural precursor cells from paternal Snord116 deletion mice exhibit increased Ube3a-ATS levels in differentiated neurons and show a reduced effect of topotecan compared with wild-type neurons. These results demonstrate that the AS candidate drug topotecan acts predominantly through stabilizing R loops and chromatin decondensation at the paternally expressed PWS Snord116 locus. Our study holds promise for targeted therapies to the Snord116 locus for both AS and PWS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13938-13943
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
StatePublished - 2013


  • Brain
  • HBII85
  • MBII85
  • Neurodevelopment
  • SnoRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • Medicine(all)


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