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J Neurosci. 2007 Jul 11;27(28):7418-28.

Nuclear localization of ataxin-3 is required for the manifestation of symptoms in SCA3: in vivo evidence.

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Department of Medical Genetics, University of Tübingen, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3) is an autosomal dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by the expansion of a CAG repeat in the MJD1 gene resulting in an expanded polyglutamine repeat in the ataxin-3 protein. To study the course of the disease, we generated transgenic mice for SCA3 using full-length ataxin-3 constructs containing 15, 70, or 148 CAG repeats, respectively. Control mice (15 CAGs) were phenotypically normal and had no neuropathological findings. However, mice transgenic for ataxin-3 with expanded polyglutamine repeats were severely affected by a strong neurological phenotype with tremor, behavioral deficits, strongly reduced motor and exploratory activity, a hunchback, and premature death at 3 to 6 months of age. Neuropathological examination by immunohistochemical staining revealed ubiquitin- and ataxin-3-positive intranuclear inclusion bodies in a multitude of neurons. Directing ataxin-3 with 148 CAGs to the nucleus revealed an even more pronounced phenotype with more inclusions and earlier death, whereas mice transgenic with the same construct but attached to a nuclear export signal developed a milder phenotype with less inclusions. These studies indicate that nuclear localization of ataxin-3 is required for the manifestation of symptoms in SCA3 in vivo.

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