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Huntington's disease: molecular basis of neurodegeneration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 February 2004

David C. Rubinsztein
Affiliation:
Department of Medical Genetics, Cambridge Institute of Medical Research, Wellcome/MRC Building, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 2XY, UK.
Jenny Carmichael
Affiliation:
Department of Medical Genetics, Cambridge Institute of Medical Research, Wellcome/MRC Building, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 2XY, UK.

Abstract

Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG trinucleotide repeat expansion in the HD gene. The expanded repeats are translated into an abnormally long polyglutamine tract close to the N-terminus of the HD gene product (‘huntingtin’). Studies in humans and mouse models suggest that the mutation is associated with a deleterious gain-of-function. Several studies have suggested that the large huntingtin protein is cleaved to produce a shorter N-terminal fragment containing the polyglutamine expansion, and that the polyglutamine expansion causes the protein fragment to misfold and form aggregates (inclusions) in the nuclei and processes of neurons. It is likely that neurotoxicity is caused by the misfolded protein in its soluble form, and/or in aggregates, and/or in the process of aggregation. A wide range of potential mechanisms for neurotoxicity have been proposed, including caspase activation, dysregulation of transcriptional pathways, increased production of reactive oxygen species, and inhibition of proteasome activity. In this review we consider the current status of research in the field and possible mechanisms whereby the HD mutation might result in neurodegeneration.

Type
Review Article
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2003

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