Publication Date



Journal of Biological Chemistry


Noncanonical base pairing between four guanines (G) within single-stranded G-rich sequences leads to formation of а G-quartet. Self-stacking of G-quartets results in a columnar four-stranded DNA structure known as the G-quadruplex (G4 or G4-DNA). In cancer cells, G4-DNA regulates multiple DNA-dependent processes, including transcription, replication, and telomere function. How G4s function in neurons is poorly understood. Here, we performed a genome-wide gene expression analysis (RNA-Seq) to identify genes modulated by a G4-DNA ligand, pyridostatin (PDS), in primary cultured neurons. PDS promotes stabilization of G4 structures, thus allowing us to define genes directly or indirectly responsive to G4 regulation. We found that 901 genes were differentially expressed in neurons treated with PDS out of a total of 18,745 genes with measured expression. Of these, 505 genes were downregulated and 396 genes were upregulated and included gene networks regulating p53 signaling, the immune response, learning and memory, and cellular senescence. Within the p53 network, the E3 ubiquitin ligase Pirh2 (Rchy1), a modulator of DNA damage responses, was upregulated by PDS. Ectopically overexpressing Pirh2 promoted the formation of DNA double-strand breaks, suggesting a new DNA damage mechanism in neurons that is regulated by G4 stabilization. Pirh2 downregulated DDX21, an RNA helicase that unfolds G4-RNA and R-loops. Finally, we demonstrated that Pirh2 increased G4-DNA levels in the neuronal nucleolus. Our data reveal the genes that are responsive to PDS treatment and suggest similar transcriptional regulation by endogenous G4-DNA ligands. They also connect G4-dependent regulation of transcription and DNA damage mechanisms in neuronal cells.


G-quadruplex, pyridostatin, Pirh2, RCHY1, DDX21, neurodegeneration

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