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J Huntingtons Dis. 2013;2(2):201-15. doi: 10.3233/JHD-130058.

The de-ubiquitinating enzyme ataxin-3 does not modulate disease progression in a knock-in mouse model of Huntington disease.

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Department of Neurology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Department of Neurology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA ; Geriatrics Research, Education, and Clinical Center, VAAAHS, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Ataxin-3 is a deubiquitinating enzyme (DUB) that participates in ubiquitin-dependent protein quality control pathways and, based on studies in model systems, may be neuroprotective against toxic polyglutamine proteins such as the Huntington's disease (HD) protein, huntingtin (htt). HD is one of at least nine polyglutamine neurodegenerative diseases in which disease-causing proteins accumulate in ubiquitin-positive inclusions within neurons. In studies crossing mice null for ataxin-3 to an established HD knock-in mouse model (HdhQ200), we tested whether loss of ataxin-3 alters disease progression, perhaps by impairing the clearance of mutant htt or the ubiquitination of inclusions. While loss of ataxin-3 mildly exacerbated age-dependent motor deficits, it did not alter inclusion formation, ubiquitination of inclusions or levels of mutant or normal htt. Ataxin-3, itself a polyglutamine-containing protein with multiple ubiquitin binding domains, was not observed to localize to htt inclusions. Changes in neurotransmitter receptor binding known to occur in HD knock-in mice also were not altered by the loss of ataxin-3, although we unexpectedly observed increased GABAA receptor binding in the striatum of HdhQ200 mice, which has not previously been noted. Finally, we confirmed that CNS levels of hsp70 are decreased in HD mice as has been reported in other HD mouse models, regardless of the presence or absence of ataxin-3. We conclude that while ataxin-3 may participate in protein quality control pathways, it does not critically regulate the handling of mutant htt or contribute to major features of disease pathogenesis in HD.


Ataxin-3; Huntington disease; Neurodegenerative disease; polyglutamine; ubiquitin-proteasome pathway

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