Huntingtin modulates transcription, occupies gene promoters in vivo, and binds directly to DNA in a polyglutamine-dependent manner.
ABSTRACT: Transcriptional dysregulation is a central pathogenic mechanism in Huntington's disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder associated with polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion in the huntingtin (Htt) protein. In this study, we show that mutant Htt alters the normal expression of specific mRNA species at least partly by disrupting the binding activities of many transcription factors which govern the expression of the dysregulated mRNA species. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) demonstrates Htt occupation of gene promoters in vivo in a polyQ-dependent manner, and furthermore, ChIP-on-chip and ChIP subcloning reveal that wild-type and mutant Htt exhibit differential genomic distributions. Exon 1 Htt binds DNA directly in the absence of other proteins and alters DNA conformation. PolyQ expansion increases Htt-DNA interactions, with binding to recognition elements of transcription factors whose function is altered in HD. Together, these findings suggest mutant Htt modulates gene expression through abnormal interactions with genomic DNA, altering DNA conformation and transcription factor binding.
Project description:Expansion of the polyglutamine (polyQ) track of the Huntingtin (HTT) protein above 36 is associated with a sharply enhanced risk of Huntington's disease (HD). Although there is general agreement that HTT toxicity resides primarily in N-terminal fragments such as the HTT exon1 protein, there is no consensus on the nature of the physical states of HTT exon1 that are induced by polyQ expansion, nor on which of these states might be responsible for toxicity. One hypothesis is that polyQ expansion induces an alternative, toxic conformation in the HTT exon1 monomer. Alternative hypotheses posit that the toxic species is one of several possible aggregated states. Defining the nature of the toxic species is particularly challenging because of facile interconversion between physical states as well as challenges to identifying these states, especially in vivo. Here we describe the use of fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) to characterize the detailed time and repeat length dependent self-association of HTT exon1-like fragments both with chemically synthesized peptides in vitro and with cell-produced proteins in extracts and in living cells. We find that, in vitro, mutant HTT exon1 peptides engage in polyQ repeat length dependent dimer and tetramer formation, followed by time dependent formation of diffusible spherical and fibrillar oligomers and finally by larger, sedimentable amyloid fibrils. For expanded polyQ HTT exon1 expressed in PC12 cells, monomers are absent, with tetramers being the smallest molecular form detected, followed in the incubation time course by small, diffusible aggregates at 6-9 hours and larger, sedimentable aggregates that begin to build up at 12 hrs. In these cell cultures, significant nuclear DNA damage appears by 6 hours, followed at later times by caspase 3 induction, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cell death. Our data thus defines limits on the sizes and concentrations of different physical states of HTT exon1 along the reaction profile in the context of emerging cellular distress. The data provide some new candidates for the toxic species and some new reservations about more well-established candidates. Compared to other known markers of HTT toxicity, nuclear DNA damage appears to be a relatively early pathological event.
Project description:Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expansion of a polyglutamine (polyQ) domain in the N-terminal region of huntingtin (htt). PolyQ expansion above 35-40 results in disease associated with htt aggregation into inclusion bodies. It has been hypothesized that expanded polyQ domains adopt multiple potentially toxic conformations that belong to different aggregation pathways. Here, we used atomic force microscopy to analyze the effect of a panel of anti-htt antibodies (MW1-MW5, MW7, MW8, and 3B5H10) on aggregate formation and the stability of a mutant htt-exon1 fragment. Two antibodies, MW7 (polyproline-specific) and 3B5H10 (polyQ-specific), completely inhibited fibril formation and disaggregated preformed fibrils, whereas other polyQ-specific antibodies had widely varying effects on aggregation. These results suggest that expanded polyQ domains adopt multiple conformations in solution that can be readily distinguished by monoclonal antibodies, which has important implications for understanding the structural basis for polyQ toxicity and the development of intrabody-based therapeutics for HD.
Project description:Huntington disease (HD) is caused by an expansion of the polyglutamine (polyQ) repeat (>37Q) in huntingtin (htt), and age of onset is inversely correlated with the length of the polyQ repeat. Mutant htt with expanded polyQ is ubiquitously expressed in various types of cells, including glia, but causes selective neurodegeneration. Our recent study demonstrated that expression of the N-terminal mutant htt with a large polyQ repeat (160Q) in astrocytes is sufficient to induce neurological symptoms in mice (Bradford, J., Shin, J. Y., Roberts, M., Wang, C. E., Li, X.-J., and Li, S. H. (2009) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 106, 22480-22485). Because glia-neuron interactions are critical for maintaining the normal function and survival of neurons in the brain and because mutant htt is more abundant in neurons than in glial cells, it is important to investigate whether glial htt can still contribute to HD pathology when mutant htt is abundantly expressed in neuronal cells. We generated transgenic mice that express mutant htt with 98Q in astrocytes. Unlike our recently generated htt-160Q transgenic mice, htt-98Q mice do not show obvious neurological phenotypes, suggesting that the length of the polyQ repeat determines the severity of glial dysfunction. However, htt-98Q mice show increased susceptibility to glutamate-induced seizure. Mice expressing mutant htt in astrocytes were mated with N171-82Q mice that express mutant htt primarily in neuronal cells. Double transgenic mice expressing mutant htt in both neuronal and glial cells display more severe neurological symptoms and earlier death than N171-82Q mice. These findings indicate a role of glial mutant htt in exacerbating HD neuropathology and underscore the importance of improving glial function in treating HD.
Project description:Proteins containing polyglutamine (polyQ) regions are found in almost all eukaryotes, albeit with various frequencies. In humans, proteins such as huntingtin (Htt) with abnormally expanded polyQ regions cause neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's disease (HD). To study how the presence of endogenous polyQ aggregation modulates polyQ aggregation and toxicity, we expressed polyQ expanded Htt fragments (polyQ Htt) in Schizosaccharomyces pombe In stark contrast to other unicellular fungi, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, S. pombe is uniquely devoid of proteins with more than 10 Q repeats. We found that polyQ Htt forms aggregates within S. pombe cells only with exceedingly long polyQ expansions. Surprisingly, despite the presence of polyQ Htt aggregates in both the cytoplasm and nucleus, no significant growth defect was observed in S. pombe cells. Further, PCR analysis showed that the repetitive polyQ-encoding DNA region remained constant following transformation and after multiple divisions in S. pombe, in contrast to the genetic instability of polyQ DNA sequences in other organisms. These results demonstrate that cells with a low content of polyQ or other aggregation-prone proteins can show a striking resilience with respect to polyQ toxicity and that genetic instability of repetitive DNA sequences may have played an important role in the evolutionary emergence and exclusion of polyQ expansion proteins in different organisms.Polyglutamine (polyQ) proteins encoded by repetitive CAG DNA sequences serve a variety of normal biological functions. Yet some proteins with abnormally expanded polyQ regions cause neurodegeneration through unknown mechanisms. To study how distinct cellular environments modulate polyQ aggregation and toxicity, we expressed CAG-expanded huntingtin fragments in Schizosaccharomyces pombe In stark contrast to many other eukaryotes, S. pombe is uniquely devoid of proteins containing long polyQ tracts. Our results show that S. pombe cells, despite their low content of endogenous polyQ proteins, exhibit striking and unexpected resilience with respect to polyQ toxicity and that genetic instability of repetitive DNA sequences may have played an important role in the emergence and expansion of polyQ domains in eukaryotic evolution.
Project description:Huntington disease (HD) is caused by an expansion of more than 35-40 polyglutamine (polyQ) repeats in the huntingtin (htt) protein, resulting in accumulation of inclusion bodies containing fibrillar deposits of mutant htt fragments. Intriguingly, polyQ length is directly proportional to the propensity for htt to form fibrils and the severity of HD and is inversely correlated with age of onset. Although the structural basis for htt toxicity is unclear, the formation, abundance, and/or persistence of toxic conformers mediating neuronal dysfunction and degeneration in HD must also depend on polyQ length. Here we used atomic force microscopy to demonstrate mutant htt fragments and synthetic polyQ peptides form oligomers in a polyQ length-dependent manner. By time-lapse atomic force microscopy, oligomers form before fibrils, are transient in nature, and are occasionally direct precursors to fibrils. However, the vast majority of fibrils appear to form by monomer addition coinciding with the disappearance of oligomers. Thus, oligomers must undergo a major structural transition preceding fibril formation. In an immortalized striatal cell line and in brain homogenates from a mouse model of HD, a mutant htt fragment formed oligomers in a polyQ length-dependent manner that were similar in size to those formed in vitro, although these structures accumulated over time in vivo. Finally, using immunoelectron microscopy, we detected oligomeric-like structures in human HD brains. These results demonstrate that oligomer formation by a mutant htt fragment is strongly polyQ length-dependent in vitro and in vivo, consistent with a causative role for these structures, or subsets of these structures, in HD pathogenesis.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a polyglutamine (polyQ) disease caused by aberrant expansion of the polyQ tract in Huntingtin (HTT). While motor impairment mediated by polyQ-expanded HTT has been intensively studied, molecular mechanisms for nonmotor symptoms in HD, such as psychiatric manifestations, remain elusive. Here we have demonstrated that HTT forms a ternary protein complex with the scaffolding protein DISC1 and cAMP-degrading phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) to regulate PDE4 activity. We observed pathological cross-seeding between DISC1 and mutant HTT aggregates in the brains of HD patients as well as in a murine model that recapitulates the polyQ pathology of HD (R6/2 mice). In R6/2 mice, consequent reductions in soluble DISC1 led to dysregulation of DISC1-PDE4 complexes, aberrantly increasing the activity of PDE4. Importantly, exogenous expression of a modified DISC1, which binds to PDE4 but not mutant HTT, normalized PDE4 activity and ameliorated anhedonia in the R6/2 mice. We propose that cross-seeding of mutant HTT and DISC1 and the resultant changes in PDE4 activity may underlie the pathology of a specific subset of mental manifestations of HD, which may provide an insight into molecular signaling in mental illness in general.
Project description:Huntington's disease is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder resulting from polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion (>36Q) within the first exon of Huntingtin (Htt) protein. We applied X-ray crystallography to determine the secondary structure of the first exon (EX1) of Htt17Q. The structure of Htt17Q-EX1 consists of an amino-terminal alpha helix, poly17Q region, and polyproline helix formed by the proline-rich region. The poly17Q region adopts multiple conformations in the structure, including alpha helix, random coil, and extended loop. The conformation of the poly17Q region is influenced by the conformation of neighboring protein regions, demonstrating the importance of the native protein context. We propose that the conformational flexibility of the polyQ region observed in our structure is a common characteristic of many amyloidogenic proteins. We further propose that the pathogenic polyQ expansion in the Htt protein increases the length of the random coil, which promotes aggregation and facilitates abnormal interactions with other proteins in cells.
Project description:Huntington's disease is caused by the pathological expansion of a polyglutamine (polyQ) stretch in Huntingtin (Htt), but the molecular mechanisms by which polyQ expansion in Htt causes toxicity in selective neuronal populations remain poorly understood. Interestingly, heterologous expression of expanded polyQ Htt is toxic in Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells, but has no effect in Schizosaccharomyces pombe, a related yeast species possessing very few endogenous polyQ or Q/N-rich proteins. Here, we used a comprehensive and unbiased mass spectrometric approach to identify proteins that bind Htt in a length-dependent manner in both species. Analysis of the expanded polyQ-associated proteins reveals marked enrichment of proteins that are localized to and play functional roles in nucleoli and mitochondria in S. cerevisiae, but not in S. pombe. Moreover, expanded polyQ Htt appears to interact preferentially with endogenous polyQ and Q/N-rich proteins, which are rare in S. pombe, as well as proteins containing coiled-coil motifs in S. cerevisiae. Taken together, these results suggest that polyQ expansion of Htt may cause cellular toxicity in S. cerevisiae by sequestering endogenous polyQ and Q/N-rich proteins, particularly within nucleoli and mitochondria.
Project description:Polyglutamine(polyQ)-expanded proteins are potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of polyQ expansion disorders such as Huntington's disease (HD) and spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3). Here, we used an amino-terminal fragment of a mutant Huntingtin protein (Htt-N-82Q) as bait in an unbiased screen of a 60,000 peptoid library. Peptoid HQP09 was selected from the isolated hits and confirmed as a specific ligand of Htt-N-82Q and Atxn3-77Q mutant proteins in biochemical experiments. We identified three critical residues in the HQP09 sequence that are important for its activity and generated a minimal derivative, HQP09_9, which maintains the specific polyQ-binding activity. We demonstrated that HQP09 and HQP09_9 inhibited aggregation of Htt-N-53Q in vitro and exerted Ca(2+)-stabilizing and neuroprotective effects in experiments with primary striatal neuronal cultures derived from HD mice. We further demonstrated that intracerebroventricular delivery of HQP09 to an HD mouse model resulted in reduced accumulation of mutant Huntingtin aggregates and improved motor behavioral outcomes. These results suggest that HQP09 and similar peptoids hold promise as novel therapeutics for developing treatments for HD, SCA3, and other polyglutamine expansion disorders.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by a CAG repeat expansion that encodes a polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion in the HD disease protein, huntingtin (HTT). PolyQ expansion promotes misfolding and aggregation of mutant HTT (mHTT) within neurons. The cellular pathways, including ubiquitin-dependent processes, by which mHTT is regulated remain incompletely understood. Ube2W is the only ubiquitin conjugating enzyme (E2) known to ubiquitinate substrates at their amino (N)-termini, likely favoring substrates with disordered N-termini. By virtue of its N-terminal polyQ domain, HTT has an intrinsically disordered amino terminus. In studies employing immortalized cells, primary neurons and a knock-in (KI) mouse model of HD, we tested the effect of Ube2W deficiency on mHTT levels, aggregation and neurotoxicity. In cultured cells, deficiency of Ube2W activity markedly decreases mHTT aggregate formation and increases the level of soluble monomers, while reducing mHTT-induced cytotoxicity. Consistent with this result, the absence of Ube2W in HdhQ200 KI mice significantly increases levels of soluble monomeric mHTT while reducing insoluble oligomeric species. This study sheds light on the potential function of the non-canonical ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, Ube2W, in this polyQ neurodegenerative disease.