Association of polyalanine and polyglutamine coiled coils mediates expansion disease-related protein aggregation and dysfunction.
ABSTRACT: The expansion of homopolymeric glutamine (polyQ) or alanine (polyA) repeats in certain proteins owing to genetic mutations induces protein aggregation and toxicity, causing at least 18 human diseases. PolyQ and polyA repeats can also associate in the same proteins, but the general extent of their association in proteomes is unknown. Furthermore, the structural mechanisms by which their expansion causes disease are not well understood, and these repeats are generally thought to misfold upon expansion into aggregation-prone ?-sheet structures like amyloids. However, recent evidence indicates a critical role for coiled-coil (CC) structures in triggering aggregation and toxicity of polyQ-expanded proteins, raising the possibility that polyA repeats may as well form these structures, by themselves or in association with polyQ. We found through bioinformatics screenings that polyA, polyQ and polyQA repeats have a phylogenetically graded association in human and non-human proteomes and associate/overlap with CC domains. Circular dichroism and cross-linking experiments revealed that polyA repeats can form--alone or with polyQ and polyQA--CC structures that increase in stability with polyA length, forming higher-order multimers and polymers in vitro. Using structure-guided mutagenesis, we studied the relevance of polyA CCs to the in vivo aggregation and toxicity of RUNX2--a polyQ/polyA protein associated with cleidocranial dysplasia upon polyA expansion--and found that the stability of its polyQ/polyA CC controls its aggregation, localization and toxicity. These findings indicate that, like polyQ, polyA repeats form CC structures that can trigger protein aggregation and toxicity upon expansion in human genetic diseases.
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:Nine neurodegenerative disorders are caused by the abnormal expansion of polyglutamine (polyQ) regions within distinct proteins. Genetic and biochemical evidence has documented that the molecular chaperone, heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70), modulates polyQ toxicity and aggregation, yet it remains unclear how Hsp70 might be used as a potential therapeutic target in polyQ-related diseases. We have utilized a pair of membrane-permeable compounds that tune the activity of Hsp70 by either stimulating or by inhibiting its ATPase functions. Using these two pharmacological agents in both yeast and PC12 cell models of polyQ aggregation and toxicity, we were surprised to find that stimulating Hsp70 solubilized polyQ conformers and simultaneously exacerbated polyQ-mediated toxicity. By contrast, inhibiting Hsp70 ATPase activity protected against polyQ toxicity and promoted aggregation. These findings clarify the role of Hsp70 as a possible drug target in polyQ disorders and suggest that Hsp70 uses ATP hydrolysis to help partition polyQ proteins into structures with varying levels of proteotoxicity. Our results thus support an emerging concept in which certain kinds of polyQ aggregates may be protective, while more soluble polyQ species are toxic.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by an abnormal expansion in the polyglutamine (polyQ) track of the Huntingtin (HTT) protein. The severity of the disease depends on the polyQ repeat length, arising only in patients with proteins having 36 repeats or more. Previous studies have shown that the aggregation of N-terminal fragments (encoded by HTT exon 1) underlies the disease pathology in mouse models and that the HTT exon 1 gene product can self-assemble into amyloid structures. Here, we provide detailed structural mechanisms for aggregation of several protein fragments encoded by HTT exon 1 by using the associative memory, water-mediated, structure and energy model (AWSEM) to construct their free energy landscapes. We find that the addition of the N-terminal 17-residue sequence ([Formula: see text]) facilitates polyQ aggregation by encouraging the formation of prefibrillar oligomers, whereas adding the C-terminal polyproline sequence ([Formula: see text]) inhibits aggregation. The combination of both terminal additions in HTT exon 1 fragment leads to a complex aggregation mechanism with a basic core that resembles that found for the aggregation of pure polyQ repeats using AWSEM. At the extrapolated physiological concentration, although the grand canonical free energy profiles are uphill for HTT exon 1 fragments having 20 or 30 glutamines, the aggregation landscape for fragments with 40 repeats has become downhill. This computational prediction agrees with the critical length found for the onset of HD and suggests potential therapies based on blocking early binding events involving the terminal additions to the polyQ repeats.
Project description:Polyglutamine (polyQ) disorders, including Huntington's disease (HD), are caused by expansion of polyQ-encoding repeats within otherwise unrelated gene products. In polyQ diseases, the pathology and death of affected neurons are associated with the accumulation of mutant proteins in insoluble aggregates. Several studies implicate polyQ-dependent aggregation as a cause of neurodegeneration in HD, suggesting that inhibition of neuronal polyQ aggregation may be therapeutic in HD patients. We have used a yeast-based high-throughput screening assay to identify small-molecule inhibitors of polyQ aggregation. We validated the effects of four hit compounds in mammalian cell-based models of HD, optimized compound structures for potency, and then tested them in vitro in cultured brain slices from HD transgenic mice. These efforts identified a potent compound (IC50=10 nM) with long-term inhibitory effects on polyQ aggregation in HD neurons. Testing of this compound in a Drosophila HD model showed that it suppresses neurodegeneration in vivo, strongly suggesting an essential role for polyQ aggregation in HD pathology. The aggregation inhibitors identified in this screen represent four primary chemical scaffolds and are strong lead compounds for the development of therapeutics for human polyQ diseases.
Project description:Proteins with long, pathogenic polyglutamine (polyQ) sequences have an enhanced propensity to spontaneously misfold and self-assemble into insoluble protein aggregates. Here, we have identified 21 human proteins that influence polyQ-induced ataxin-1 misfolding and proteotoxicity in cell model systems. By analyzing the protein sequences of these modifiers, we discovered a recurrent presence of coiled-coil (CC) domains in ataxin-1 toxicity enhancers, while such domains were not present in suppressors. This suggests that CC domains contribute to the aggregation- and toxicity-promoting effects of modifiers in mammalian cells. We found that the ataxin-1-interacting protein MED15, computationally predicted to possess an N-terminal CC domain, enhances spontaneous ataxin-1 aggregation in cell-based assays, while no such effect was observed with the truncated protein MED15?CC, lacking such a domain. Studies with recombinant proteins confirmed these results and demonstrated that the N-terminal CC domain of MED15 (MED15CC) per se is sufficient to promote spontaneous ataxin-1 aggregation in vitro. Moreover, we observed that a hybrid Pum1 protein harboring the MED15CC domain promotes ataxin-1 aggregation in cell model systems. In strong contrast, wild-type Pum1 lacking a CC domain did not stimulate ataxin-1 polymerization. These results suggest that proteins with CC domains are potent enhancers of polyQ-mediated protein misfolding and aggregation in vitro and in vivo.
Project description:Dynamic expansions of toxic polyglutamine (polyQ)-encoding CAG repeats in ubiquitously expressed, but otherwise unrelated, genes cause a number of late-onset progressive neurodegenerative disorders, including Huntington disease and the spinocerebellar ataxias. As polyQ toxicity in these disorders increases with repeat length, the intergenerational expansion of unstable CAG repeats leads to anticipation, an earlier age-at-onset in successive generations. Crucially, disease associated alleles are also somatically unstable and continue to expand throughout the lifetime of the individual. Interestingly, the inherited polyQ length mediating a specific age-at-onset of symptoms varies markedly between disorders. It is widely assumed that these inter-locus differences in polyQ toxicity are mediated by protein context effects. Previously, we demonstrated that the tendency of expanded CAG•CTG repeats to undergo further intergenerational expansion (their 'expandability') also differs between disorders and these effects are strongly correlated with the GC content of the genomic flanking DNA. Here we show that the inter-locus toxicity of the expanded polyQ tracts of these disorders also correlates with both the expandability of the underlying CAG repeat and the GC content of the genomic DNA flanking sequences. Inter-locus polyQ toxicity does not correlate with properties of the mRNA or protein sequences, with polyQ location within the gene or protein, or steady state transcript levels in the brain. These data suggest that the observed inter-locus differences in polyQ toxicity are not mediated solely by protein context effects, but that genomic context is also important, an effect that may be mediated by modifying the rate at which somatic expansion of the DNA delivers proteins to their cytotoxic state.
Project description:Polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases represent a neuropathologically heterogeneous group of disorders. The common theme of these disorders is an elongated polyQ tract in otherwise unrelated proteins. So far, only symptomatic treatment can be applied to patients suffering from polyQ diseases. Despite extensive research, the molecular mechanisms underlying polyQ-induced toxicity are largely unknown. To gain insight into polyQ pathology, we performed a large-scale RNAi screen in Drosophila to identify modifiers of toxicity induced by expression of truncated Ataxin-3 containing a disease-causing polyQ expansion. We identified various unknown modifiers of polyQ toxicity. Large-scale analysis indicated a dissociation of polyQ aggregation and toxicity.
Project description:Polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases are a group of dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disorders caused by the expansion of an unstable CAG repeat in the coding region of the affected genes. Hallmarks of polyQ diseases include the accumulation of misfolded protein aggregates, leading to neuronal degeneration and cell death. PolyQ diseases are currently incurable, highlighting the urgent need for approaches that inhibit the formation of disaggregate cytotoxic polyQ protein inclusions. Here, we screened for bisamidine-based inhibitors that can inhibit neuronal polyQ protein inclusions. We demonstrated that one inhibitor, AQAMAN, prevents polyQ protein aggregation and promotes de-aggregation of self-assembled polyQ proteins in several models of polyQ diseases. Using immunocytochemistry, we found that AQAMAN significantly reduces polyQ protein aggregation and specifically suppresses polyQ protein-induced cell death. Using a recombinant and purified polyQ protein (thioredoxin-Huntingtin-Q46), we further demonstrated that AQAMAN interferes with polyQ self-assembly, preventing polyQ aggregation, and dissociates preformed polyQ aggregates in a cell-free system. Remarkably, AQAMAN feeding of Drosophila expressing expanded polyQ disease protein suppresses polyQ-induced neurodegeneration in vivo In addition, using inhibitors and activators of the autophagy pathway, we demonstrated that AQAMAN's cytoprotective effect against polyQ toxicity is autophagy-dependent. In summary, we have identified AQAMAN as a potential therapeutic for combating polyQ protein toxicity in polyQ diseases. Our findings further highlight the importance of the autophagy pathway in clearing harmful polyQ proteins.
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:Expanded runs of consecutive trinucleotide CAG repeats encoding polyglutamine (polyQ) stretches are observed in the genes of a large number of patients with different genetic diseases such as Huntington's and several Ataxias. Protein aggregation, which is a key feature of most of these diseases, is thought to be triggered by these expanded polyQ sequences in disease-related proteins. However, polyQ tracts are a normal feature of many human proteins, suggesting that they have an important cellular function. To clarify the potential function of polyQ repeats in biological systems, we systematically analyzed available information stored in sequence and protein interaction databases. By integrating genomic, phylogenetic, protein interaction network and functional information, we obtained evidence that polyQ tracts in proteins stabilize protein interactions. This happens most likely through structural changes whereby the polyQ sequence extends a neighboring coiled-coil region to facilitate its interaction with a coiled-coil region in another protein. Alteration of this important biological function due to polyQ expansion results in gain of abnormal interactions, leading to pathological effects like protein aggregation. Our analyses suggest that research on polyQ proteins should shift focus from expanded polyQ proteins into the characterization of the influence of the wild-type polyQ on protein interactions.