Aggregation landscapes of Huntingtin exon 1 protein fragments and the critical repeat length for the onset of Huntington's disease.
ABSTRACT: 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:Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion in huntingtin (htt), a large (350 kDa) protein that localizes predominantly to the cytoplasm. Proteolytic cleavage of mutant htt yields polyQ-containing N-terminal fragments that are prone to misfolding and aggregation. Disease progression in HD transgenic models correlates with age-related accumulation of soluble and aggregated forms of N-terminal mutant htt fragments, suggesting that multiple forms of mutant htt are involved in the selective neurodegeneration in HD. Although mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated in the pathogenesis of HD, it remains unclear which forms of cytoplasmic mutant htt associate with mitochondria to affect their function. Here we demonstrate that specific N-terminal mutant htt fragments associate with mitochondria in Hdh(CAG)150 knock-in mouse brain and that this association increases with age. The interaction between soluble N-terminal mutant htt and mitochondria interferes with the in vitro association of microtubule-based transport proteins with mitochondria. Mutant htt reduces the distribution and transport rate of mitochondria in the processes of cultured neuronal cells. Reduced ATP level was also found in the synaptosomal fraction isolated from Hdh(CAG)150 knock-in mouse brain. These findings suggest that specific N-terminal mutant htt fragments, before the formation of aggregates, can impair mitochondrial function directly and that this interaction may be a novel target for therapeutic strategies in HD.
Project description:A number of mouse models expressing mutant huntingtin (htt) with an expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) domain are useful for studying the pathogenesis of Huntington's disease (HD) and identifying appropriate therapies. However, these models exhibit neurological phenotypes that differ in their severity and nature. Understanding how transgenic htt leads to variable neuropathology in animal models would shed light on the pathogenesis of HD and help us to choose HD models for investigation. By comparing the expression of mutant htt at the transcriptional and protein levels in transgenic mice expressing N-terminal or full-length mutant htt, we found that the accumulation and aggregation of mutant htt in the brain is determined by htt context. HD mouse models demonstrating more severe phenotypes show earlier accumulation of N-terminal mutant htt fragments, which leads to the formation of htt aggregates that are primarily present in neuronal nuclei and processes, as well as glial cells. Similarly, transgenic monkeys expressing exon-1 htt with a 147-glutamine repeat (147Q) died early and showed abundant neuropil aggregates in swelling neuronal processes. Fractionation of HD150Q knock-in mice brains revealed an age-dependent accumulation of N-terminal mutant htt fragments in the nucleus and synaptosomes, and this accumulation was most pronounced in the striatum due to decreased proteasomal activity. Our findings suggest that the neuropathological phenotypes of HD stem largely from the accumulation of N-terminal mutant htt fragments and that this accumulation is determined by htt context and cell-type-dependent clearance of mutant htt.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant, progressive, neurodegenerative disorder caused by an unstable expansion of CAG repeats (>35 repeats) within exon 1 of the interesting transcript 15 (IT15) gene. This gene encodes a protein called Huntingtin (Htt), and mutation of the gene results in a polyglutamine (polyQ) near the N-terminus of Htt. The N-terminal fragments of mutant Htt (mHtt), which tend to aggregate, are sufficient to cause HD. Whether these aggregates are causal or protective for HD remains hotly debated. Dysfunctional mitochondrial axonal transport is associated with HD. It remains unknown whether the soluble or aggregated form of mHtt is the primary cause of the impaired mitochondrial axonal transport in HD pathology. Here, we investigated the impact of soluble and aggregated N-terminal fragments of mHtt on mitochondrial axonal transport in cultured hippocampal neurons. We found that the N-terminal fragment of mHtt formed aggregates in almost half of the transfected neurons. Overexpression of the N-terminal fragment of mHtt decreased the velocity of mitochondrial axonal transport and mitochondrial mobility in neurons regardless of whether aggregates were formed. However, the impairment of mitochondrial axonal transport in neurons expressing the soluble and aggregated N-terminal fragments of mHtt did not differ. Our findings indicate that both the soluble and aggregated N-terminal fragments of mHtt impair mitochondrial axonal transport in cultured hippocampal neurons. We predict that dysfunction of mitochondrial axonal transport is an early-stage event in the progression of HD, even before mHtt aggregates are formed.
Project description:Assemblies of huntingtin (HTT) fragments with expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) tracts are a pathological hallmark of Huntington's disease (HD). The molecular mechanisms by which these structures are formed and cause neuronal dysfunction and toxicity are poorly understood. Here, we utilized available gene expression data sets of selected brain regions of HD patients and controls for systematic interaction network filtering in order to predict disease-relevant, brain region-specific HTT interaction partners. Starting from a large protein-protein interaction (PPI) data set, a step-by-step computational filtering strategy facilitated the generation of a focused PPI network that directly or indirectly connects 13 proteins potentially dysregulated in HD with the disease protein HTT. This network enabled the discovery of the neuron-specific protein CRMP1 that targets aggregation-prone, N-terminal HTT fragments and suppresses their spontaneous self-assembly into proteotoxic structures in various models of HD. Experimental validation indicates that our network filtering procedure provides a simple but powerful strategy to identify disease-relevant proteins that influence misfolding and aggregation of polyQ disease proteins.
Project description:Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expansion of polyglutamines in the first exon of huntingtin (HTT), which confers aggregation-promoting properties to amino-terminal fragments of the protein (N-HTT). Mutant N-HTT aggregates are enriched for ubiquitin and contain ubiquitin E3 ligases, thus suggesting a role for ubiquitination in aggregate formation. Here, we report that tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) binds to WT and polyQ-expanded N-HTT in vitro as well as to endogenous full-length proteins in mouse and human brain in vivo. Endogenous TRAF6 is recruited to cellular inclusions formed by mutant N-HTT. Transient overexpression of TRAF6 promotes WT and mutant N-HTT atypical ubiquitination with Lys(6), Lys(27), and Lys(29) linkage formation. Both interaction and ubiquitination seem to be independent from polyQ length. In cultured cells, TRAF6 enhances mutant N-HTT aggregate formation, whereas it has no effect on WT N-HTT protein localization. Mutant N-HTT inclusions are enriched for ubiquitin staining only when TRAF6 and Lys(6), Lys(27), and Lys(29) ubiquitin mutants are expressed. Finally, we show that TRAF6 is up-regulated in post-mortem brains from HD patients where it is found in the insoluble fraction. These results suggest that TRAF6 atypical ubiquitination warrants investigation in HD pathogenesis.
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:Aberrant aggregation of improperly folded proteins is the hallmark of several human neurodegenerative disorders, including Huntington's Disease (HD) with autosomal-dominant inheritance. In HD, expansion of the CAG-repeat-encoded polyglutamine (polyQ) stretch beyond ~40 glutamines in huntingtin (Htt) and its N-terminal fragments leads to the formation of large (up to several ?m) globular neuronal inclusion bodies (IBs) over time. We report direct observations of aggregating Htt exon 1 in living and fixed cells at enhanced spatial resolution by stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy and single-molecule super-resolution optical imaging. Fibrils of Htt exon 1 arise abundantly across the cytosolic compartment and also in neuritic processes only after nucleation and aggregation into a fairly advanced stage of growth of the prominent IB have taken place. Structural characterizations of fibrils by STED show a distinct length cutoff at ~1·5 µm and reveal subsequent coalescence (bundling/piling). Cytosolic fibrils are observed even at late stages in the process, side-by-side with the mature IB. Htt sequestration into the IB, which in neurons has been argued to be a cell-protective phenomenon, thus appears to saturate and over-power the cellular degradation systems and leaves cells vulnerable to further aggregation producing much smaller, potentially toxic, conformational protein species of which the fibrils may be comprised. We further found that exogenous delivery of the apical domain of the chaperonin subunit CCT1 to the cells via the cell medium reduced the aggregation propensity of mutant Htt exon 1 in general, and strongly reduced the occurrence of such late-stage fibrils in particular.
Project description:Although expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) repeats are inherently toxic, causing at least nine neurodegenerative diseases, the protein context determines which neurons are affected. The polyQ expansion that causes Huntington's disease (HD) is in the first exon (HDx-1) of huntingtin (Htt). However, other parts of the protein, including the 17 N-terminal amino acids and two proline (polyP) repeat domains, regulate the toxicity of mutant Htt. The role of the P-rich domain that is flanked by the polyP domains has not been explored. Using highly specific intracellular antibodies (intrabodies), we tested various epitopes for their roles in HDx-1 toxicity, aggregation, localization, and turnover. Three domains in the P-rich region (PRR) of HDx-1 are defined by intrabodies: MW7 binds the two polyP domains, and Happ1 and Happ3, two new intrabodies, bind the unique, P-rich epitope located between the two polyP epitopes. We find that the PRR-binding intrabodies, as well as V(L)12.3, which binds the N-terminal 17 aa, decrease the toxicity and aggregation of HDx-1, but they do so by different mechanisms. The PRR-binding intrabodies have no effect on Htt localization, but they cause a significant increase in the turnover rate of mutant Htt, which V(L)12.3 does not change. In contrast, expression of V(L)12.3 increases nuclear Htt. We propose that the PRR of mutant Htt regulates its stability, and that compromising this pathogenic epitope by intrabody binding represents a novel therapeutic strategy for treating HD. We also note that intrabody binding represents a powerful tool for determining the function of protein epitopes in living cells.
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 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.