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Autophagy. 2007 Jan-Feb;3(1):21-5. Epub 2007 Jan 23.

Autophagy genes protect against disease caused by polyglutamine expansion proteins in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.


Expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) proteins aggregate intracellularly in Huntington's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The lysosomal degradation pathway, autophagy, is known to promote clearance of polyQ protein aggregates in cultured cells. Moreover, basal autophagy in neuronal cells in mice prevents neurodegeneration by suppressing the accumulation of abnormal intracellular proteins. However, it is not yet known whether autophagy genes play a role in vivo in protecting against disease caused by mutant aggregate-prone, expanded polyQ proteins. To examine this question, we used two models of polyQ-induced toxicity in C. elegans, including the expression of polyQ40 aggregates in muscle and the expression of a human huntingtin disease fragment containing a polyQ tract of 150 residues (Htn-Q150) in ASH sensory neurons. Here, we show that genetic inactivation of autophagy genes accelerates the accumulation of polyQ40 aggregates in C. elegans muscle cells and exacerbates polyQ40-induced muscle dysfunction. Autophagy gene inactivation also increases the accumulation of Htn-Q150 aggregates in C. elegans ASH sensory neurons and results in enhanced neurodegeneration. These data provide in vivo genetic evidence that autophagy genes suppress the accumulation of polyQ aggregates and protect cells from disease caused by polyQ toxicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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