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Neurobiol Dis. 1999 Oct;6(5):364-75.

Mutant huntingtin forms in vivo complexes with distinct context-dependent conformations of the polyglutamine segment.

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Molecular Neurogenetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Building 149, 13th Street, Charlestown, Massachusetts, 02129, USA.


Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by an expanded glutamine tract, which confers a novel aggregation-promoting property on the 350-kDa huntingtin protein. Using specific antibodies, we have probed the structure of the polyglutamine segment in mutant huntingtin complexes formed in cell culture from either truncated or full-length protein. Complexes formed by a mutant amino terminal fragment most frequently entail a change in conformation that eliminates reactivity with the polyglutamine-specific mAb 1F8, coincident with production of insoluble aggregate. By contrast, complexes formed by the full-length mutant protein remain soluble and are invariably 1F8-reactive, indicating a soluble polyglutamine conformation. Therefore, aggregates in HD may form by different biochemical mechanisms that invoke different possibilities for the pathogenic process. If pathogenesis is triggered by a truncated fragment, it probably involves the formation of an insoluble aggregate. However, the observation of soluble complexes in which an HD-specific pathogenic conformation of the glutamine tract remains accessible suggests that pathogenesis could also be triggered at the level of full-length huntingtin by abnormal aggregation with normal or abnormal protein partners.

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