Journal Article

Aggregated polyglutamine peptides delivered to nuclei are toxic to mammalian cells

Wen Yang, John R. Dunlap, Richard B. Andrews and Ronald Wetzel

in Human Molecular Genetics

Volume 11, issue 23, pages 2905-2917
Published in print November 2002 | ISSN: 0964-6906
Published online November 2002 | e-ISSN: 1460-2083 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/11.23.2905
Aggregated polyglutamine peptides delivered to nuclei are toxic to mammalian cells

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A number of observations point to the aggregation of expanded polyglutamine [poly(Q)]-containing proteins as playing a central role in the etiology of Huntington's disease (HD) and other expanded CAG-repeat diseases. Transfected cell and transgenic animal models provide some of this support, but irrefutable data on the cytotoxicity of poly(Q) aggregates is lacking. This may be due in part to difficulties in observing all aggregated states in these models, and in part to the inability to conclusively rule out the role of monomeric states of the poly(Q) protein. To address these questions, we produced aggregates of simple poly(Q) peptides in vitro and introduced them to mammalian cells in culture. We find that Cos-7 and PC-12 cells in culture readily take up aggregates of chemically synthesized poly(Q) peptides. Simple poly(Q) aggregates are localized to the cytoplasm and have little impact on cell viability. Aggregates of poly(Q) peptides containing a nuclear localization signal, however, are localized to nuclei and lead to dramatic cell death. Amyloid fibrils of a non-poly(Q) peptide are non-toxic, whether localized to the cytoplasm or nucleus. Nuclear localization of an aggregate of a short, Q20, poly(Q) peptide is just as toxic as that of a long poly(Q) peptide, supporting the notion that the influence of poly(Q) repeat length on disease risk and age of onset is at the level of aggregation efficiency. The results support a direct role for poly(Q) aggregates in HD-related neurotoxicity.

Journal Article.  6782 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Genetics and Genomics

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