RNAi screening in Drosophila cells identifies new modifiers of mutant huntingtin aggregation.
ABSTRACT: The fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster is well established as a model system in the study of human neurodegenerative diseases. Utilizing RNAi, we have carried out a high-throughput screen for modifiers of aggregate formation in Drosophila larval CNS-derived cells expressing mutant human Huntingtin exon 1 fused to EGFP with an expanded polyglutamine repeat (62Q). 7200 genes, encompassing around 50% of the Drosophila genome, were screened, resulting in the identification of 404 candidates that either suppress or enhance aggregation. These candidates were subjected to secondary screening in normal length (18Q)-expressing cells and pruned to remove dsRNAs with greater than 10 off-target effects (OTEs). De novo RNAi probes were designed and synthesized for the remaining 68 candidates. Following a tertiary round of screening, 21 high confidence candidates were analyzed in vivo for their ability to modify mutant Huntingtin-induced eye degeneration and brain aggregation. We have established useful models for the study of human HD using the fly, and through our RNAi screen, we have identified new modifiers of mutant human Huntingtin aggregation and aggregate formation in the brain. Newly identified modifiers including genes related to nuclear transport, nucleotide processes, and signaling, may be involved in polyglutamine aggregate formation and Huntington disease cascades.
Project description:In polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases including Huntington's disease (HD), mutant proteins containing expanded polyQ stretch form aggregates in neurons. Genetic or RNAi screenings in yeast, C. elegans or Drosophila have identified multiple genes modifying polyQ aggregation, a few of which are confirmed effective in mammals. However, the overall molecular mechanism underlying polyQ protein aggregation in mammalian cells still remains obscure. We here perform RNAi screening in mouse neuro2a cells to identify mammalian modifiers for aggregation of mutant huntingtin, a causative protein of HD. By systematic cell transfection and automated cell image analysis, we screen ? 12000 shRNA clones and identify 111 shRNAs that either suppress or enhance mutant huntingtin aggregation, without altering its gene expression. Classification of the shRNA-targets suggests that genes with various cellular functions such as gene transcription and protein phosphorylation are involved in modifying the aggregation. Subsequent analysis suggests that, in addition to the aggregation-modifiers sensitive to proteasome inhibition, some of them, such as a transcription factor Tcf20, and kinases Csnk1d and Pik3c2a, are insensitive to it. As for Tcf20, which contains polyQ stretches at N-terminus, its binding to mutant huntingtin aggregates is observed in neuro2a cells and in HD model mouse neurons. Notably, except Pik3c2a, the rest of the modifiers identified here are novel. Thus, our first large-scale RNAi screening in mammalian system identifies previously undescribed genetic players that regulate mutant huntingtin aggregation by several, possibly mammalian-specific mechanisms.
Project description:To identify Huntington's Disease therapeutics, we conducted high-content small molecule and RNAi suppressor screens using a Drosophila primary neural culture Huntingtin model. Drosophila primary neurons offer a sensitive readout for neurotoxicty, as their neurites develop dysmorphic features in the presence of mutant polyglutamine-expanded Huntingtin compared to nonpathogenic Huntingtin. By tracking the subcellular distribution of mRFP-tagged pathogenic Huntingtin and assaying neurite branch morphology via live-imaging, we identified suppressors that could reduce Huntingtin aggregation and/or prevent the formation of dystrophic neurites. The custom algorithms we used to quantify neurite morphologies in complex cultures provide a useful tool for future high-content screening approaches focused on neurodegenerative disease models. Compounds previously found to be effective aggregation inhibitors in mammalian systems were also effective in Drosophila primary cultures, suggesting translational capacity between these models. However, we did not observe a direct correlation between the ability of a compound or gene knockdown to suppress aggregate formation and its ability to rescue dysmorphic neurites. Only a subset of aggregation inhibitors could revert dysmorphic cellular profiles. We identified lkb1, an upstream kinase in the mTOR/Insulin pathway, and four novel drugs, Camptothecin, OH-Camptothecin, 18?-Glycyrrhetinic acid, and Carbenoxolone, that were strong suppressors of mutant Huntingtin-induced neurotoxicity. Huntingtin neurotoxicity suppressors identified through our screen also restored viability in an in vivo Drosophila Huntington's Disease model, making them attractive candidates for further therapeutic evaluation.
Project description:Protein conformational diseases exhibit complex pathologies linked to numerous molecular defects. Aggregation of a disease-associated protein causes the misfolding and aggregation of other proteins, but how this interferes with diverse cellular pathways is unclear. Here, we show that aggregation of neurodegenerative disease-related proteins (polyglutamine, huntingtin, ataxin-1, and superoxide dismutase-1) inhibits clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME) in mammalian cells by aggregate-driven sequestration of the major molecular chaperone heat shock cognate protein 70 (HSC70), which is required to drive multiple steps of CME. CME suppression was also phenocopied by HSC70 RNAi depletion and could be restored by conditionally increasing HSC70 abundance. Aggregation caused dysregulated AMPA receptor internalization and also inhibited CME in primary neurons expressing mutant huntingtin, showing direct relevance of our findings to the pathology in neurodegenerative diseases. We propose that aggregate-associated chaperone competition leads to both gain-of-function and loss-of-function phenotypes as chaperones become functionally depleted from multiple clients, leading to the decline of multiple cellular processes. The inherent properties of chaperones place them at risk, contributing to the complex pathologies of protein conformational diseases.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a currently incurable neurodegenerative condition caused by an abnormally expanded polyglutamine tract in huntingtin (HTT). We identified new modifiers of mutant HTT toxicity by performing a large-scale 'druggable genome' siRNA screen in human cultured cells, followed by hit validation in Drosophila. We focused on glutaminyl cyclase (QPCT), which had one of the strongest effects on mutant HTT-induced toxicity and aggregation in the cell-based siRNA screen and also rescued these phenotypes in Drosophila. We found that QPCT inhibition induced the levels of the molecular chaperone ?B-crystallin and reduced the aggregation of diverse proteins. We generated new QPCT inhibitors using in silico methods followed by in vitro screening, which rescued the HD-related phenotypes in cell, Drosophila and zebrafish HD models. Our data reveal a new HD druggable target affecting mutant HTT aggregation and provide proof of principle for a discovery pipeline from druggable genome screen to drug development.
Project description:Deposition of misfolded proteins with a polyglutamine expansion is a hallmark of Huntington disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Impairment of the proteolytic function of the proteasome has been reported to be both a cause and a consequence of polyglutamine accumulation. Here we found that the proteasomal chaperones that unfold proteins to be degraded by the proteasome but also have non-proteolytic functions co-localized with huntingtin inclusions both in primary neurons and in Huntington disease patients and formed a complex independently of the proteolytic particle. Overexpression of Rpt4 or Rpt6 facilitated aggregation of mutant huntingtin and ataxin-3 without affecting proteasomal degradation. Conversely, reducing Rpt6 or Rpt4 levels decreased the number of inclusions in primary neurons, indicating that endogenous Rpt4 and Rpt6 facilitate inclusion formation. In vitro reconstitution experiments revealed that purified 19S particles promote mutant huntingtin aggregation. When fused to the ornithine decarboxylase destabilizing sequence, proteins with expanded polyglutamine were efficiently degraded and did not aggregate. We propose that aggregation of proteins with expanded polyglutamine is not a consequence of a proteolytic failure of the 20S proteasome. Rather, aggregation is elicited by chaperone subunits of the 19S particle independently of proteolysis.
Project description:Polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin protein is the primary genetic cause of Huntington's disease (HD). Fragments coinciding with mutant huntingtin exon1 aggregate in vivo and induce HD-like pathology in mouse models. The resulting aggregates can have different structures that affect their biochemical behaviour and cytotoxic activity. Here we report our studies of the structure and functional characteristics of multiple mutant htt exon1 fibrils by complementary techniques, including infrared and solid-state NMR spectroscopies. Magic-angle-spinning NMR reveals that fibrillar exon1 has a partly mobile ?-helix in its aggregation-accelerating N terminus, and semi-rigid polyproline II helices in the proline-rich flanking domain (PRD). The polyglutamine-proximal portions of these domains are immobilized and clustered, limiting access to aggregation-modulating antibodies. The polymorphic fibrils differ in their flanking domains rather than the polyglutamine amyloid structure. They are effective at seeding polyglutamine aggregation and exhibit cytotoxic effects when applied to neuronal cells.
Project description:Huntington disease is caused by expanded polyglutamine sequences in huntingtin, which procures its aggregation into intracellular inclusion bodies (IBs). Aggregate intermediates, such as soluble oligomers, are predicted to be toxic to cells, yet because of a lack of quantitative methods, the kinetics of aggregation in cells remains poorly understood. We used sedimentation velocity analysis to define and compare the heterogeneity and flux of purified huntingtin with huntingtin expressed in mammalian cells under non-denaturing conditions. Non-pathogenic huntingtin remained as hydrodynamically elongated monomers in vitro and in cells. Purified polyglutamine-expanded pathogenic huntingtin formed elongated monomers (2.4 S) that evolved into a heterogeneous aggregate population of increasing size over time (100-6,000 S). However, in cells, mutant huntingtin formed three major populations: monomers (2.3 S), oligomers (mode s(20,w) = 140 S) and IBs (mode s(20,w) = 320,000 S). Strikingly, the oligomers did not change in size heterogeneity or in their proportion of total huntingtin over 3 days despite continued monomer conversion to IBs, suggesting that oligomers are rate-limiting intermediates to IB formation. We also determined how a chaperone known to modulate huntingtin toxicity, Hsc70, influences in-cell huntingtin partitioning. Hsc70 decreased the pool of 140 S oligomers but increased the overall flux of monomers to IBs, suggesting that Hsc70 reduces toxicity by facilitating transfer of oligomers into IBs. Together, our data suggest that huntingtin aggregation is streamlined in cells and is consistent with the 140 S oligomers, which remain invariant over time, as a constant source of toxicity to cells irrespective of total load of insoluble aggregates.
Project description:Polyglutamine expansion within the exon1 of huntingtin leads to protein misfolding, aggregation, and cytotoxicity in Huntington's disease. This incurable neurodegenerative disease is the most prevalent member of a family of CAG repeat expansion disorders. Although mature exon1 fibrils are viable candidates for the toxic species, their molecular structure and how they form have remained poorly understood. Using advanced magic angle spinning solid-state NMR, we directly probe the structure of the rigid core that is at the heart of huntingtin exon1 fibrils and other polyglutamine aggregates, via measurements of long-range intramolecular and intermolecular contacts, backbone and side-chain torsion angles, relaxation measurements, and calculations of chemical shifts. These experiments reveal the presence of ?-hairpin-containing ?-sheets that are connected through interdigitating extended side chains. Despite dramatic differences in aggregation behavior, huntingtin exon1 fibrils and other polyglutamine-based aggregates contain identical ?-strand-based cores. Prior structural models, derived from X-ray fiber diffraction and computational analyses, are shown to be inconsistent with the solid-state NMR results. Internally, the polyglutamine amyloid fibrils are coassembled from differently structured monomers, which we describe as a type of "intrinsic" polymorphism. A stochastic polyglutamine-specific aggregation mechanism is introduced to explain this phenomenon. We show that the aggregation of mutant huntingtin exon1 proceeds via an intramolecular collapse of the expanded polyglutamine domain and discuss the implications of this observation for our understanding of its misfolding and aggregation mechanisms.
Project description:Huntington disease (HD) is caused by a polyglutamine-expansion mutation in huntingtin (HTT) that makes the protein toxic and aggregate-prone. The subcellular localisation of huntingtin and many of its interactors suggest a role in endocytosis, and recently it has been shown that huntingtin interacts indirectly with the early endosomal protein Rab5 through HAP40. Here we show that Rab5 inhibition enhanced polyglutamine toxicity, whereas Rab5 overexpression attenuated toxicity in our cell and fly models of HD. We tried to identify a mechanism for the Rab5 effects in our HD model systems, and our data suggest that Rab5 acts at an early stage of autophagosome formation in a macromolecular complex that contains beclin 1 (BECN1) and Vps34. Interestingly chemical or genetic inhibition of endocytosis also impeded macroautophagy, and enhanced aggregation and toxicity of mutant huntingtin. However, in contrast to Rab5, inhibition of endocytosis by various means suppressed autophagosome-lysosome fusion (the final step in the macroautophagy pathway) similar to bafilomycin A1. Thus, Rab5, which has previously been thought to be exclusively involved in endocytosis, has a new role in macroautophagy. We have previously shown that macroautophagy is an important clearance route for several aggregate-prone proteins including mutant huntingtin. Thus, better understanding of Rab5-regulated autophagy might lead to rational therapeutic targets for HD and other protein-conformation diseases.
Project description:Misfolding- and aggregation-prone proteins underlying Parkinson's, Huntington's and Machado-Joseph diseases, namely alpha-synuclein, huntingtin, and ataxin-3 respectively, adopt numerous intracellular conformations during pathogenesis, including globular intermediates and insoluble amyloid-like fibrils. Such conformational diversity has complicated research into amyloid-associated intracellular dysfunction and neurodegeneration. To this end, recombinant single-chain Fv antibodies (scFvs) are compelling molecular tools that can be selected against specific protein conformations, and expressed inside cells as intrabodies, for investigative and therapeutic purposes.Using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and live-cell fluorescence microscopy, we report that a human scFv selected against the fibrillar form of alpha-synuclein targets isomorphic conformations of misfolded polyglutamine proteins. When expressed in the cytoplasm of striatal cells, this conformation-specific intrabody co-localizes with intracellular aggregates of misfolded ataxin-3 and a pathological fragment of huntingtin, and enhances the aggregation propensity of both disease-linked polyglutamine proteins. Using this intrabody as a tool for modulating the kinetics of amyloidogenesis, we show that escalating aggregate formation of a pathologic huntingtin fragment is not cytoprotective in striatal cells, but rather heightens oxidative stress and cell death as detected by flow cytometry. Instead, cellular protection is achieved by suppressing aggregation using a previously described intrabody that binds to the amyloidogenic N-terminus of huntingtin. Analogous cytotoxic results are observed following conformational targeting of normal or polyglutamine-expanded human ataxin-3, which partially aggregate through non-polyglutamine domains.These findings validate that the rate of aggregation modulates polyglutamine-mediated intracellular dysfunction, and caution that molecules designed to specifically hasten aggregation may be detrimental as therapies for polyglutamine disorders. Moreover, our findings introduce a novel antibody-based tool that, as a consequence of its general specificity for fibrillar conformations and its ability to function intracellularly, offers broad research potential for a variety of human amyloid diseases.