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Neurotherapeutics. 2012 Apr;9(2):270-84. doi: 10.1007/s13311-012-0112-2.

Huntington's disease and the striatal medium spiny neuron: cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous mechanisms of disease.

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Department of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Annenberg 14-44, 1 Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, NY 10019, USA.


Huntington's disease is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by a mutation in the gene encoding the protein huntingtin on chromosome 4. The mutation is an expanded CAG repeat in the first exon, encoding a polyglutamine tract. If the polyglutamine tract is > 40, penetrance is 100% and death is inevitable. Despite the widespread expression of huntingtin, HD has long been considered primarily as a disease of the striatum. It is characterized by selective vulnerability with dysfunction followed by death of the medium size spiny neuron. Considerable effort is being expended to determine whether striatal damage is cell-autonomous, non-cell-autonomous, requiring cell-cell and region to region communication, or both. We review data supporting both mechanisms. We also attempt to organize the data into common mechanisms that may arise outside the medium, spiny neuron, but ultimately have their greatest impact in the striatum.

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