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Neurobiol Dis. 2002 Jul;10(2):88-99.

Chemical chaperones reduce aggregate formation and cell death caused by the truncated Machado-Joseph disease gene product with an expanded polyglutamine stretch.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, 305-8575, Japan.


Machado-Joseph disease/spinocerebellar ataxia-3 (MJD/SCA-3) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by expansion of the polyglutamine stretch in the MJD gene-encoded protein ataxin-3. The truncated form of mutated ataxin-3 causes aggregation and cell death in vitro and in vivo. Abnormal conformation and misfolding of the pathological protein are assumed critical to pathogenesis. To test this hypothesis, we transfected BHK-21 and Neuro2a cells transiently with N-terminal truncated ataxin-3 with an expanded polyglutamine stretch. We then studied the effects of organic solvent dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), cellular osmolytes glycerol, and trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) on aggregate formation and cell death. These reagents stabilize proteins in their native conformation and are called chemical chaperones based on their influence on protein folding. Aggregate formation and cytotoxicity induced by truncated expanded ataxin-3 were reduced by exposing cells to these chemical chaperones. Our results indicate the potentially useful therapeutic strategy of the chemical chaperones in preventing cell death in MJD.

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