Evidence for a recruitment and sequestration mechanism in Huntington'sdisease

Elizabeth Preisinger, Barbara M. Jordan, Aleksey Kazantsev, David Housman

Abstract

Polyglutamine (polyQ) extension in the coding sequence of mutant huntingtin causes neuronal degeneration associated with the formation of insoluble polyQ aggregates in Huntington'sdisease. We constructed an array of CAG/CAA triplet repeats, coding for a range of 25 to 300 glutamine residues, which was used to generate expression constructs with minimal flanking sequence. Normal–length (25 glutamine residues) polyQ did not aggregate when transfected alone. Remarkably, when co–transfected with extended (100 to 300 glutamine residues) polyQ tracts, normal–length polyQ–containing peptides were trapped in insoluble detergent–resistant aggregates. Aggregates formed in the cytoplasm but were visible in the nucleus only when a strong nuclear localization signal was present. Intermolecular interactions between polyQ tracts mediated the localization of heterogeneous aggregates into the nucleolus by nucleolin protein. Our results suggest that extended polyQ can interact with cellular polyQ–containing proteins, transport them to ectopic cellular locations, and form heterogeneous polyQ aggregates. We provide evidence for a recruitment mechanism for pathogenesis in the polyQ neurodegenerative disorders. In susceptible cells, extended polyQ tracts in huntingtin might interact with and sequester or deplete certain endogenous polyQ–containing cellular proteins.