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J Biol Chem. 2001 Nov 30;276(48):44889-97. Epub 2001 Sep 25.

The role of protein composition in specifying nuclear inclusion formation in polyglutamine disease.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.


Intracellular inclusions are a unifying feature of polyglutamine (polyQ) neurodegenerative diseases, yet each polyQ disease displays a unique pattern of neuronal degeneration. This implies that the protein context of expanded polyQ plays an important role in establishing selective neurotoxicity. Here, in studies of the spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 disease protein ataxin-3, we demonstrate that the protein sequence surrounding polyQ specifies the constituents of nuclear inclusions (NI) formed by the disease protein. The nuclear proteins cAMP response element-binding protein-binding protein (CBP) and Mastermind-like-1 strongly colocalize only to NI formed by full-length ataxin-3, whereas the splicing factor SC35 colocalizes only to NI formed by a polyQ-containing, carboxyl-terminal fragment of ataxin-3. These differences in NI formation reflect specific protein interactions normally undertaken by ataxin-3, as both normal and mutant full-length ataxin-3 co-immunoprecipitate with CBP and sediment on density gradients as macromolecular complexes. Moreover, normal ataxin-3 represses cAMP response element-binding protein-mediated transcription, indicating a functional consequence of ataxin-3 interactions with CBP. Finally, we show that mutant ataxin-3 forms insoluble intranuclear complexes, or microaggregates, before NI can be detected, implying a precursor-product relationship. These results suggest that protein context-dependent recruitment of nuclear proteins to intranuclear microaggregates, and subsequently to NI, may contribute to selective neurotoxicity in polyQ diseases.

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