A General Strategy to Access Structural Information at Atomic Resolution in Polyglutamine Homorepeats.
ABSTRACT: Homorepeat (HR) proteins are involved in key biological processes and multiple pathologies, however their high-resolution characterization has been impaired due to their homotypic nature. To overcome this problem, we have developed a strategy to isotopically label individual glutamines within HRs by combining nonsense suppression and cell-free expression. Our method has enabled the NMR investigation of huntingtin exon1 with a 16-residue polyglutamine (poly-Q) tract, and the results indicate the presence of an N-terminal ?-helix at near neutral pH that vanishes towards the end of the HR. The generality of the strategy was demonstrated by introducing a labeled glutamine into a pathological version of huntingtin with 46 glutamines. This methodology paves the way to decipher the structural and dynamic perturbations induced by HR extensions in poly-Q-related diseases. Our approach can be extended to other amino acids to investigate biological processes involving proteins containing low-complexity regions (LCRs).
Project description:Huntington's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by a polyglutamine [poly(Q)] repeat expansion in the first exon of the huntingtin protein. Previously, we showed that N-terminal huntingtin peptides with poly(Q) tracts in the pathological range (51-122 glutamines), but not with poly(Q) tracts in the normal range (20 and 30 glutamines), form high molecular weight protein aggregates with a fibrillar or ribbon-like morphology, reminiscent of scrapie prion rods and beta-amyloid fibrils in Alzheimer's disease. Here we report that the formation of amyloid-like huntingtin aggregates in vitro not only depends on poly(Q) repeat length but also critically depends on protein concentration and time. Furthermore, the in vitro aggregation of huntingtin can be seeded by preformed fibrils. Together, these results suggest that amyloid fibrillogenesis in Huntington's disease, like in Alzheimer's disease, is a nucleation-dependent polymerization.
Project description:The presence of expanded poly-glutamine (polyQ) repeats in proteins is directly linked to the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Huntington's disease. However, the molecular and structural basis underlying the increased toxicity of aggregates formed by proteins containing expanded polyQ repeats remain poorly understood, in part due to the size and morphological heterogeneity of the aggregates they form in vitro. To address this knowledge gap and technical limitations, we investigated the structural, mechanical and morphological properties of fibrillar aggregates at the single molecule and nanometer scale using the first exon of the Huntingtin protein as a model system (Exon1). Our findings demonstrate a direct correlation of the morphological and mechanical properties of Exon1 aggregates with their structural organization at the single aggregate and nanometric scale and provide novel insights into the molecular and structural basis of Huntingtin Exon1 aggregation and toxicity.
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's disease and several other neurological diseases are caused by expanded polyglutamine [poly(Gln)] tracts in different proteins. Mechanisms for expanded (>36 Gln residues) poly(Gln) toxicity include the formation of aggregates that recruit and sequester essential cellular proteins [Preisinger, E., Jordan, B. M., Kazantsev, A. & Housman, D. (1999) Phil. Trans. R. Soc. London B 354, 1029-1034; Chen, S., Berthelier, V., Yang, W. & Wetzel, R. (2001) J. Mol. Biol. 311, 173-182] and functional alterations, such as improper interactions with other proteins [Cummings, C. J. & Zoghbi, H. Y. (2000) Hum. Mol. Genet. 9, 909-916]. Expansion above the "pathologic threshold" ( approximately 36 Gln) has been proposed to induce a conformational transition in poly(Gln) tracts, which has been suggested as a target for therapeutic intervention. Here we show that structural analyses of soluble huntingtin exon 1 fusion proteins with 16 to 46 glutamine residues reveal extended structures with random coil characteristics and no evidence for a global conformational change above 36 glutamines. An antibody (MW1) Fab fragment, which recognizes full-length huntingtin in mouse brain sections, binds specifically to exon 1 constructs containing normal and expanded poly(Gln) tracts, with affinity and stoichiometry that increase with poly(Gln) length. These data support a "linear lattice" model for poly(Gln), in which expanded poly(Gln) tracts have an increased number of ligand-binding sites as compared with normal poly(Gln). The linear lattice model provides a rationale for pathogenicity of expanded poly(Gln) tracts and a structural framework for drug design.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Polyglutamine (polyQ)-induced protein aggregation is the hallmark of a group of neurodegenerative diseases, including Huntington's disease. We hypothesized that a protease that could cleave polyQ stretches would intervene in the initial events leading to pathogenesis in these diseases. To prove this concept, we aimed to generate a protease possessing substrate specificity for polyQ stretches. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Hepatitis A virus (HAV) 3C protease (3CP) was subjected to engineering using a yeast-based method known as the Genetic Assay for Site-specific Proteolysis (GASP). Analysis of the substrate specificity revealed that 3CP can cleave substrates containing glutamine at positions P5, P4, P3, P1, P2', or P3', but not substrates containing glutamine at the P2 or P1' positions. To accommodate glutamine at P2 and P1', key residues comprising the active sites of the S2 or S1' pockets were separately randomized and screened. The resulting sets of variants were combined by shuffling and further subjected to two rounds of randomization and screening using a substrate containing glutamines from positions P5 through P3'. One of the selected variants (Var26) reduced the expression level and aggregation of a huntingtin exon1-GFP fusion protein containing a pathogenic polyQ stretch (HttEx1(97Q)-GFP) in the neuroblastoma cell line SH-SY5Y. Var26 also prevented cell death and caspase 3 activation induced by HttEx1(97Q)-GFP. These protective effects of Var26 were proteolytic activity-dependent. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These data provide a proof-of-concept that proteolytic cleavage of polyQ stretches could be an effective modality for the treatment of polyQ diseases.
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 (HD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by dominant polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion within the N terminus of huntingtin (Htt) protein. Abnormal metal accumulation in the striatum of HD patients has been reported for many years, but a causative relationship has not yet been established. Furthermore, if metal is indeed involved in HD, the underlying mechanism needs to be explored. Here using a Drosophila model of HD, wherein Htt exon1 with expanded polyQ (Htt exon1-polyQ) is introduced, we show that altered expression of genes involved in copper metabolism significantly modulates the HD progression. Intervention of dietary copper levels also modifies HD phenotypes in the fly. Copper reduction to a large extent decreases the level of oligomerized and aggregated Htt. Strikingly, substitution of two potential copper-binding residues of Htt, Met8 and His82, completely dissociates the copper-intensifying toxicity of Htt exon1-polyQ. Our results therefore indicate HD entails two levels of toxicity: the copper-facilitated protein aggregation as conferred by a direct copper binding in the exon1 and the copper-independent polyQ toxicity. The existence of these two parallel pathways converging into Htt toxicity also suggests that an ideal HD therapy would be a multipronged approach that takes both these actions into consideration.
Project description:Polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion in exon1 (XN1) of the huntingtin protein is linked to Huntington's disease. When the number of glutamines exceeds a threshold of approximately 36-40 repeats, XN1 can readily form amyloid aggregates similar to those associated with disease. Many experiments suggest that misfolding of monomeric XN1 plays an important role in the length-dependent aggregation. Elucidating the misfolding of a XN1 monomer can help determine the molecular mechanism of XN1 aggregation and potentially help develop strategies to inhibit XN1 aggregation. The flanking sequences surrounding the polyQ region can play a critical role in determining the structural rearrangement and aggregation mechanism of XN1. Few experiments have studied XN1 in its entirety, with all flanking regions. To obtain structural insights into the misfolding of XN1 toward amyloid aggregation, we perform molecular dynamics simulations on monomeric XN1 with full flanking regions, a variant missing the polyproline regions, which are hypothesized to prevent aggregation, and an isolated polyQ peptide (Q(n)). For each of these three constructs, we study glutamine repeat lengths of 23, 36, 40 and 47. We find that polyQ peptides have a positive correlation between their probability to form a beta-rich misfolded state and their expansion length. We also find that the flanking regions of XN1 affect its probability to form a beta-rich state compared to the isolated polyQ. Particularly, the polyproline regions form polyproline type II helices and decrease the probability of the polyQ region to form a beta-rich state. Additionally, by lengthening polyQ, the first N-terminal 17 residues are more likely to adopt a beta-sheet conformation rather than an alpha-helix conformation. Therefore, our molecular dynamics study provides a structural insight of XN1 misfolding and elucidates the possible role of the flanking sequences in XN1 aggregation.
Project description:The expansion of polyglutamine (poly-Q) repeats in several unrelated proteins is associated with at least ten neurodegenerative diseases. The length of the poly-Q regions plays an important role in the progression of the diseases. The number of glutamines (Q) is inversely related to the onset age of these polyglutamine diseases, and the expansion of poly-Q repeats has been associated with protein misfolding. However, very little is known about the structural changes induced by the expansion of the repeats. Computational methods can provide an alternative to determine the structure of these poly-Q proteins, but it is important to evaluate their performance before large scale prediction work is done.In this paper, two popular protein structure prediction programs, I-TASSER and Rosetta, have been used to predict the structure of the N-terminal fragment of a protein associated with Huntington's disease with 17 glutamines. Results show that both programs have the ability to find the native structures, but I-TASSER performs better for the overall task.Both I-TASSER and Rosetta can be used for structure prediction of proteins with poly-Q repeats. Knowledge of poly-Q structure may significantly contribute to development of therapeutic strategies for poly-Q diseases.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative genetic disease characterized by a loss of neurons in the striatum. It is caused by a mutation in the Huntingtin gene (HTT) that codes for the protein huntingtin (HTT). The mutant Huntingtin gene (mHTT) contains extra poly-glutamine (CAG) repeats from which the translated mutant huntingtin proteins (mHTT) undergo inappropriate post-translational modifications, conferring a toxic gain of function, in addition to its non-functional property. In order to curb the production of the mHTT, we have constructed two CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat)-Cas9 (CRISPR associate protein) plasmids, among which one nicks the DNA at untranslated region upstream to the open reading frame (uORF), and the other nicks the DNA at exon1-intron boundary. The primary goal of this study was to apply this plasmid into mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) extracted from the bone-marrow of YAC128 mice, which carries the transgene for HD. Our results suggest that the disruption of uORF through CRISPR-Cas9 influences the translation of mHTT negatively and, to a lesser extent, disrupts the exon1-intron boundary, which affects the translation of the mHTT. These findings also revealed the pattern of the nucleotide addition or deletion at the site of the DNA-nick in this model.