Several neurological diseases are characterized by the altered activity of one or a few ubiquitously expressed cell proteins, but it is not known how these normal proteins turn into harmful executors of selective neuronal cell death. We selected huntingtin in Huntington's disease to explore this question because the dominant inheritance pattern of the disease seems to exclude the possibility that the wild-type protein has a role in the natural history of this condition. However, even in this extreme case, there is considerable evidence that normal huntingtin is important for neuronal function and that the activity of some of its downstream effectors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, is reduced in Huntington's disease.
We present evidence for a specific role of p53 in the mitochondria-associated cellular dysfunction and behavioral abnormalities of Huntington's disease (HD). Mutant huntingtin (mHtt) with expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) binds to p53 and upregulates levels of nuclear p53 as well as p53 transcriptional activity in neuronal cultures. The augmentation is specific, as it occurs with mHtt but not mutant ataxin-1 with expanded polyQ. p53 levels are also increased in the brains of mHtt transgenic (mHtt-Tg) mice and HD patients. Perturbation of p53 by pifithrin-alpha, RNA interference, or genetic deletion prevents mitochondrial membrane depolarization and cytotoxicity in HD cells, as well as the decreased respiratory complex IV activity of mHtt-Tg mice. Genetic deletion of p53 suppresses neurodegeneration in mHtt-Tg flies and neurobehavioral abnormalities of mHtt-Tg mice. Our findings suggest that p53 links nuclear and mitochondrial pathologies characteristic of HD.
The mechanisms of neurodegeneration in the CAG repeat polyglutamine diseases, including Spinal and Bulbar Muscular Atrophy (SBMA), Huntington's disease (HD), DentatoRubral and PallidoLuysian Atrophy (DRPLA), and Spino-Cerebellar Ataxia (SCA), have been controversial. Issues have included the role of polyglutamine aggregation and possible amyloid formation, localization in the cell nucleus, and possible proteolytic processing. Proposed mechanisms have included activation of caspases or other triggers of apoptosis, mitochondrial or metabolic toxicity, and interference with gene transcription. Recent studies using transgenic mouse and Drosophila models have helped resolve some of these issues and raise hopes for development of therapeutic targets.
Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by polyglutamine expansion (exp) in huntingtin. Here, we used a yeast artificial chromosome (YAC) transgenic mouse model of HD to investigate the connection between disturbed calcium (Ca2+) signaling and apoptosis of HD medium spiny neurons (MSN). Repetitive application of glutamate elevates cytosolic Ca2+ levels in MSN from the YAC128 mouse but not in MSN from the wild-type or control YAC18 mouse. Application of glutamate results in apoptosis of YAC128 MSN but not wild-type or YAC18 MSN. Analysis of glutamate-induced apoptosis of the YAC128 MSN revealed that (i) actions of glutamate are mediated by mGluR1/5 and NR2B glutamate receptors; (ii) membrane-permeable inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor blockers 2-APB and Enoxaparin (Lovenox) are neuroprotective; (iii) apoptosis involves the intrinsic pathway mediated by release of mitochondrial cytochrome c and activation of caspases 9 and 3; (iv) apoptosis requires mitochondrial Ca2+ overload and can be prevented by the mitochondrial Ca2+ uniporter blocker Ruthenium 360; and (v) apoptosis involves opening of mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP) and can be prevented by MPTP blockers such as bongkrekic acid, Nortriptyline, Desipramine, Trifluoperazine, and Maprotiline. These findings describe a pathway directly linking disturbed Ca2+ signaling and degeneration of MSN in the caudate nucleus in HD. These findings also suggest that Ca2+ and MPTP blockers may have a therapeutic potential for treatment of HD.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a late-onset neurodegenerative disorder that is caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the IT15 gene, which results in a long stretch of polyglutamine close to the amino-terminus of the HD protein huntingtin (htt). The normal function of htt, and the molecular mechanisms that contribute to the disease pathogenesis, are in the process of being elucidated. In this review, we outline the potential functions of htt as defined by the proteins with which it has been found to interact. We then focus on evidence that supports a role for transcriptional dysfunction and impaired protein folding and degradation as early events in disease pathogenesis.
Polyglutamine expansion causes Huntington disease (HD) and at least seven other neurodegenerative diseases. In HD, N-terminal fragments of huntingtin with an expanded glutamine tract are able to aggregate and accumulate in the nucleus. Although intranuclear huntingtin affects the expression of numerous genes, the mechanism of this nuclear effect is unknown. Here we report that huntingtin interacts with Sp1, a transcription factor that binds to GC-rich elements in certain promoters and activates transcription of the corresponding genes. In vitro binding and immunoprecipitation assays show that polyglutamine expansion enhances the interaction of N-terminal huntingtin with Sp1. In HD transgenic mice (R6/2) that express N-terminal-mutant huntingtin, Sp1 binds to the soluble form of mutant huntingtin but not to aggregated huntingtin. Mutant huntingtin inhibits the binding of nuclear Sp1 to the promoter of nerve growth factor receptor and suppresses its transcriptional activity in cultured cells. Overexpression of Sp1 reduces the cellular toxicity and neuritic extension defects caused by intranuclear mutant huntingtin. These findings suggest that the soluble form of mutant huntingtin in the nucleus may cause cellular dysfunction by binding to Sp1 and thus reducing the expression of Sp1-regulated genes.
Huntington disease (HD) is an autosomal-dominant neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects medium spiny striatal neurons (MSN). HD is caused by polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion (exp) in the amino-terminal region of a protein huntingtin (Htt). The connection between polyQ expansion in Httexp and MSN neurodegeneration remains elusive. Here we discuss recent data that link polyQ expansion in Httexp and deranged Ca2+ signaling in MSN neurons. Experimental evidence indicates that (1) Ca2+ homeostasis is abnormal in mitochondria isolated from lymphoblasts of HD patients and from brains of the YAC72 HD mouse model; (2) Httexp leads to potentiation of NR1/NR2B NMDA receptor activity in heterologous expression systems and in MSN from YAC72 HD mouse model; and (3) Httexp binds to the type 1 inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (InsP3R1) carboxy-terminus and causes sensitization of InsP3R1 to activation by InsP3 in planar lipid bilayers and in MSN. Based on these results we propose that Httexp-induced cytosolic and mitochondrial Ca2+ overload of MSN plays an important role in the pathogenesis of HD and that Ca2+ signaling blockers may play a beneficial role in treatment of HD.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal, inherited neurodegenerative disorder that gradually robs affected individuals of memory, cognitive skills and normal movements. Although research has identified a single faulty gene, the huntingtin gene, as the cause of the disease, a cure remains elusive. Strong evidence indicates that mitochondrial impairment plays a key part in HD pathogenesis. Here, we highlight how mutant huntingtin (mtHtt) might cause mitochondrial dysfunction by either perturbing transcription of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial proteins or by direct interaction with the organelle and modulation of respiration, mitochondrial membrane potential and Ca(2+) buffering. In addition, we propose that mtHtt might convey its neurotoxicity by evoking defects in mitochondrial dynamics, organelle trafficking and fission and fusion, which, in turn, might result in bioenergetic failure and HD-linked neuronal dysfunction and cell death. Finally, we speculate how mitochondria might dictate selective vulnerability of long projection neurons, such as medium spiny neurons, which are particularly affected in HD.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that usually starts in middle age and is characterized by involuntary movements (chorea), personality changes and dementia, leading to death within 10-20 years. The defective gene in HD contains a trinucleotide CAG repeat expansion within its coding region that expresses a polyglutamine repeat in the protein huntingtin. Together with the characteristic formation of aggregates in HD, aberrant protein interactions and several post-translational modifications affect huntingtin during disease progression and lead to the dysfunction and death of selective neurons in the brains of patients. The exact molecular mechanisms by which mutant huntingtin induces cell death are not completely understood but may involve the gain of new toxic functions and the loss of the beneficial properties of huntingtin. This review focuses on the cellular functions in which huntingtin is involved and how a better understanding of pathogenic pathways can lead to new therapeutic approaches.
The coactivator PGC-1alpha is a key regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis and respiration, mediating expression of several transcription factors required for these programs. Three new studies reveal that PGC-1alpha expression is downregulated in patients with Huntington's disease (HD) and in several animal models of this neurodegenerative disorder, implicating PGC-1alpha in HD pathogenesis and providing a connection between impaired energy metabolism and neurodegeneration.
Huntington's disease is a progressive autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by expansion of a CAG repeat coding for polyglutamine in the huntingtin protein. A recent report suggests a new mechanism involving altered interactions with a protein involved in axonal transport, leading to loss of neurotrophic factor transport. This suggests an intriguing convergence to previously described pathways implicating neurotrophin transcription in HD pathogenesis.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a genetically dominant neurodegenerative condition caused by an unique mutation in the disease gene huntingtin. Although the Huntington protein (Htt) is ubiquitously expressed, expansion of the polyglutamine tract in Htt leads to the progressive loss of specific neuronal subpopulations in HD brains. In this article, we will summarize the current understanding on mechanisms of how mutant Htt can elicit cytotoxicity, as well as how the selective sets of neuronal cell death occur in HD brains.
Tissue transglutaminase (tTG) likely plays a role in numerous processes in the nervous system. tTG posttranslationally modifies proteins by transamidation of specific polypeptide bound glutamines (Glns). This reaction results in the incorporation of polyamines into substrate proteins or the formation of protein crosslinks, modifications that likely have significant effects on neural function. Huntington's disease is a genetic disorder caused by an expansion of the polyglutamine domain in the huntingtin protein. Because a polypeptide bound Gln is the determining factor for a tTG substrate, and mutant huntingtin aggregates have been found in Huntington's disease brain, it has been hypothesized that tTG may contribute to the pathogenesis of Huntington's disease. In vitro, polyglutamine constructs and huntingtin are substrates of tTG. Further, the levels of tTG and TG activity are elevated in Huntington's disease brain and immunohistochemical studies have demonstrated that there is an increase in tTG reactivity in affected neurons in Huntington's disease. These findings suggest that tTG may play a role in Huntington's disease. However in situ, neither wild type nor mutant huntingtin is modified by tTG. Further, immunocytochemical analysis revealed that tTG is totally excluded from the huntingtin aggregates, and modulation of the expression level of tTG had no effect on the frequency of the aggregates in the cells. Therefore, tTG is not required for the formation of huntingtin aggregates, and likely does not play a role in this process in Huntington's disease brain. However, tTG interacts with truncated huntingtin, and selectively polyaminates proteins that are associated with mutant truncated huntingtin. Given the fact that the levels of polyamines in cells is in the millimolar range and the crosslinking and polyaminating reactions catalyzed by tTG are competing reactions, intracellularly polyamination is likely to be the predominant reaction. Polyamination of proteins is likely to effect their function, and therefore it can be hypothesized that tTG may play a role in the pathogenesis of Huntington's disease by modifying specific proteins and altering their function and/or localization. Further research is required to define the specific role of tTG in Huntington's disease.
A role for apoptotic mediators in neurodegenerative disease has long been considered, but the identity of the putative effectors and the basis of their actions in neurodegeneration remain ill-defined. Huntington's disease (HD) is a polyglutamine disorder whose pathogenesis likely involves mitochondrial dysfunction. In this issue of Neuron, Bae et al. present data implicating p53 in HD pathogenesis. This intriguing study may thus provide a link between nuclear transcription dysregulation and mitochondrial abnormalities in HD.