Polyglutamine domain flexibility mediates the proximity between flanking sequences in huntingtin.
ABSTRACT: Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG expansion within the huntingtin gene that encodes a polymorphic glutamine tract at the amino terminus of the huntingtin protein. HD is one of nine polyglutamine expansion diseases. The clinical threshold of polyglutamine expansion for HD is near 37 repeats, but the mechanism of this pathogenic length is poorly understood. Using Förster resonance energy transfer, we describe an intramolecular proximity between the N17 domain and the downstream polyproline region that flanks the polyglutamine tract of huntingtin. Our data support the hypothesis that the polyglutamine tract can act as a flexible domain, allowing the flanking domains to come into close spatial proximity. This flexibility is impaired with expanded polyglutamine tracts, and we can detect changes in huntingtin conformation at the pathogenic threshold for HD. Altering the structure of N17, either via phosphomimicry or with small molecules, also affects the proximity between the flanking domains. The structural capacity of N17 to fold back toward distal regions within huntingtin requires an interacting protein, protein kinase C and casein kinase 2 substrate in neurons 1 (PACSIN1). This protein has the ability to bind both N17 and the polyproline region, stabilizing the interaction between these two domains. We also developed an antibody-based FRET assay that can detect conformational changes within endogenous huntingtin in wild-type versus HD fibroblasts. Therefore, we hypothesize that wild-type length polyglutamine tracts within huntingtin can form a flexible domain that is essential for proper functional intramolecular proximity, conformations, and dynamics.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative, age-onset disorder caused by a CAG DNA expansion in exon 1 of the <i>HTT</i> gene, resulting in a polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin protein. Nuclear accumulation of mutant huntingtin is a hallmark of HD, resulting in elevated mutant huntingtin levels in cell nuclei. Huntingtin is normally retained at the endoplasmic reticulum via its N17 amphipathic ?-helix domain but is released by oxidation of Met-8 during reactive oxygen species (ROS) stress. Huntingtin enters the nucleus via an importin ?1- and 2-dependent proline-tyrosine nuclear localization signal (PY-NLS), which has a unique intervening sequence in huntingtin. Here, we have identified the high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) protein as an interactor of the intervening sequence within the PY-NLS. Nuclear levels of HMGB1 positively correlated with varying levels of nuclear huntingtin in both HD and normal human fibroblasts. We also found that HMGB1 interacts with the huntingtin N17 region and that this interaction is enhanced by the presence of ROS and phosphorylation of critical serine residues in the N17 region. We conclude that HMGB1 is a huntingtin N17/PY-NLS ROS-dependent interactor, and this protein bridging is essential for relaying ROS sensing by huntingtin to its nuclear entry during ROS stress. ROS may therefore be a critical age-onset stress that triggers nuclear accumulation of mutant huntington in Huntington's disease.
Project description:The aggregation of proteins with expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) tracts is directly relevant to the formation of neuronal intranuclear inclusions in Huntington's disease. In vitro studies have uncovered the effects of flanking sequences as modulators of the driving forces and mechanisms of polyQ aggregation in sequence segments associated with HD. Specifically, a seventeen-residue amphipathic stretch (N17) that is directly N-terminal to the polyQ tract in huntingtin decreases the overall solubility, destabilizes nonfibrillar aggregates, and accelerates fibril formation. Published results from atomistic simulations showed that the N17 module reduces the frequency of intermolecular association. Our reanalysis of these simulation results demonstrates that the N17 module also reduces interchain entanglements between polyQ domains. These two effects, which are observed on the smallest lengthscales, are incorporated into phenomenological pair potentials and used in coarse-grained Brownian dynamics simulations to investigate their impact on large-scale aggregation. We analyze the results from Brownian dynamics simulations using the framework of diffusion-limited cluster aggregation. When entanglements prevail, which is true in the absence of N17, small spherical clusters and large linear aggregates form on distinct timescales, in accord with in vitro experiments. Conversely, when entanglements are quenched and a barrier to intermolecular associations is introduced, both of which are attributable to N17, the timescales for forming small species and large linear aggregates become similar. Therefore, the combination of a reduction of interchain entanglements through homopolymeric polyQ and barriers to intermolecular associations appears to be sufficient for providing a minimalist phenomenological rationalization of in vitro observations regarding the effects of N17 on polyQ aggregation.
Project description:Huntingtin protein (Htt) is ubiquitously expressed, yet Huntington's disease (HD), a fatal neurologic disorder produced by expansion of an Htt polyglutamine tract, is characterized by neurodegeneration that occurs primarily in the striatum and cerebral cortex. Such discrepancies between sites of expression and pathology occur in multiple neurodegenerative disorders associated with expanded polyglutamine tracts. One possible reason is that disease-modifying factors are tissue-specific. Here, we show that the striatum-enriched protein, CalDAG-GEFI, is severely down-regulated in the striatum of mouse HD models and is down-regulated in HD individuals. In the R6/2 transgenic mouse model of HD, striatal neurons with the largest aggregates of mutant Htt have the lowest levels of CalDAG-GEFI. In a brain-slice explant model of HD, knock-down of CalDAG-GEFI expression rescues striatal neurons from pathology induced by transfection of polyglutamine-expanded Htt exon 1. These findings suggest that the striking down-regulation of CalDAG-GEFI in HD could be a protective mechanism that mitigates Htt-induced degeneration.
Project description:The CAG repeat expansion that elongates the polyglutamine tract in huntingtin is the root genetic cause of Huntington's disease (HD), a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder. This seemingly slight change to the primary amino acid sequence alters the physical structure of the mutant protein and alters its activity. We have identified a set of G-quadruplex-forming DNA aptamers (MS1, MS2, MS3, MS4) that bind mutant huntingtin proximal to lysines K2932/K2934 in the C-terminal CTD-II domain. Aptamer binding to mutant huntingtin abrogated the enhanced polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) stimulatory activity conferred by the expanded polyglutamine tract. In HD, but not normal, neuronal progenitor cells (NPCs), MS3 aptamer co-localized with endogenous mutant huntingtin and was associated with significantly decreased PRC2 activity. Furthermore, MS3 transfection protected HD NPCs against starvation-dependent stress with increased ATP. Therefore, DNA aptamers can preferentially target mutant huntingtin and modulate a gain of function endowed by the elongated polyglutamine segment. These mutant huntingtin binding aptamers provide novel molecular tools for delineating the effects of the HD mutation and encourage mutant huntingtin structure-based approaches to therapeutic development.
Project description:The polyglutamine expansion in huntingtin protein causes Huntington's disease. Here, we investigated structural and biochemical properties of huntingtin and the effect of the polyglutamine expansion using various biophysical experiments including circular dichroism, single-particle electron microscopy and cross-linking mass spectrometry. Huntingtin is likely composed of five distinct domains and adopts a spherical ?-helical solenoid where the amino-terminal and carboxyl-terminal regions fold to contain a circumscribed central cavity. Interestingly, we showed that the polyglutamine expansion increases ?-helical properties of huntingtin and affects the intramolecular interactions among the domains. Our work delineates the structural characteristics of full-length huntingtin, which are affected by the polyglutamine expansion, and provides an elegant solution to the apparent conundrum of how the extreme amino-terminal polyglutamine tract confers a novel property on huntingtin, causing the disease.
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 mutational expansion of the CAG trinucleotide within exon 1 of the huntingtin (Htt) gene. Exon 1 spanning N-terminal fragments (NTFs) of the Htt protein result from aberrant splicing of transcripts of mutant Htt. NTFs typically encompass a polyglutamine tract flanked by an N-terminal 17-residue amphipathic stretch (N17) and a C-terminal 38-residue proline-rich stretch (C38). We present results from in vitro biophysical studies that quantify the driving forces for and mechanisms of polyglutamine aggregation as modulated by N17 and C38. Although N17 is highly soluble by itself, it lowers the saturation concentration of soluble NTFs and increases the driving force, vis-à-vis homopolymeric polyglutamine, for forming insoluble aggregates. Kinetically, N17 accelerates fibril formation and destabilizes nonfibrillar intermediates. C38 is also highly soluble by itself, and it lends its high intrinsic solubility to lower the driving force for forming insoluble aggregates by increasing the saturation concentration of soluble NTFs. In NTFs with both modules, N17 and C38 act synergistically to destabilize nonfibrillar intermediates (N17 effect) and lower the driving force for forming insoluble aggregates (C38 effect). Morphological studies show that N17 and C38 promote the formation of ordered fibrils by NTFs. Homopolymeric polyglutamine forms a mixture of amorphous aggregates and fibrils, and its aggregation mechanisms involve early formation of heterogeneous distributions of nonfibrillar species. We propose that N17 and C38 act as gatekeepers that control the intrinsic heterogeneities of polyglutamine aggregation. This provides a biophysical explanation for the modulation of in vivo NTF toxicities by N17 and C38.
Project description:Expansion of the polyglutamine (polyQ) tract in exon 1 of the huntingtin protein (Httex1) leads to Huntington's disease resulting in fatal neurodegeneration. However, it remains poorly understood how polyQ expansions alter protein structure and cause toxicity. Using CD, EPR, and NMR spectroscopy, we found here that monomeric Httex1 consists of two co-existing structural states whose ratio is determined by polyQ tract length. We observed that short Q-lengths favor a largely random-coil state, whereas long Q-lengths increase the proportion of a predominantly ?-helical state. We also note that by following a mobility gradient, Httex1 ?-helical conformation is restricted to the N-terminal N17 region and to the N-terminal portion of the adjoining polyQ tract. Structuring in both regions was interdependent and likely stabilized by tertiary contacts. Although little helicity was present in N17 alone, each Gln residue in Httex1 enhanced helix stability by 0.03-0.05 kcal/mol, causing a pronounced preference for the ?-helical state at pathological Q-lengths. The Q-length-dependent structuring and rigidification could be mimicked in proteins with shorter Q-lengths by a decrease in temperature, indicating that lower temperatures similarly stabilize N17 and polyQ intramolecular contacts. The more rigid ?-helical state of Httex1 with an expanded polyQ tract is expected to alter interactions with cellular proteins and modulate the toxic Httex1 misfolding process. We propose that the polyQ-dependent shift in the structural equilibrium may enable future therapeutic strategies that specifically target Httex1 with toxic Q-lengths.
Project description:The nucleus is a critical subcellular compartment for the pathogenesis of polyglutamine disorders, including Huntington's disease (HD). Recent studies suggest the first 17-amino-acid domain (N17) of mutant huntingtin (mHTT) mediates its nuclear exclusion in cultured cells. Here, we test whether N17 could be a molecular determinant of nuclear mHTT pathogenesis in vivo. BAC transgenic mice expressing mHTT lacking the N17 domain (BACHD-?N17) show dramatically accelerated mHTT pathology exclusively in the nucleus, which is associated with HD-like transcriptionopathy. Interestingly, BACHD-?N17 mice manifest more overt disease-like phenotypes than the original BACHD mice, including body weight loss, movement deficits, robust striatal neuron loss, and neuroinflammation. Mechanistically, N17 is necessary for nuclear exclusion of small mHTT fragments that are part of nuclear pathology in HD. Together, our study suggests that N17 modifies nuclear pathogenesis and disease severity in HD mice by regulating subcellular localization of known nuclear pathogenic mHTT species.
Project description:Huntington's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with the expansion of the polyglutamine tract in the exon-1 domain of the huntingtin protein (htte1). Above a threshold of 37 glutamine residues, htte1 starts to aggregate in a nucleation-dependent manner. A 17-residue N-terminal fragment of htte1 (N17) has been suggested to play a crucial role in modulating the aggregation propensity and toxicity of htte1. Here we identify N17 as a potential target for novel therapeutic intervention using the molecular tweezer CLR01. A combination of biochemical experiments and computer simulations shows that binding of CLR01 induces structural rearrangements within the htte1 monomer and inhibits htte1 aggregation, underpinning the key role of N17 in modulating htte1 toxicity.