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Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 21;7:44849. doi: 10.1038/srep44849.

Huntington's disease blood and brain show a common gene expression pattern and share an immune signature with Alzheimer's disease.

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Department of Neurodegenerative Disease, University College London Institute of Neurology, London, WC1B 5EH, UK.
University College London Genetics Institute, University College London, London, WC1E 6BT, UK.
Department of Human Genetics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, Postzone S-4-P, The Netherlands.
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, CF24 4HQ, UK.
Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, CB2 8PQ, Cambridge UK.
Departments of Psychiatry and Biostatistics, University of Iowa, IA 52242, USA.


There is widespread transcriptional dysregulation in Huntington's disease (HD) brain, but analysis is inevitably limited by advanced disease and postmortem changes. However, mutant HTT is ubiquitously expressed and acts systemically, meaning blood, which is readily available and contains cells that are dysfunctional in HD, could act as a surrogate for brain tissue. We conducted an RNA-Seq transcriptomic analysis using whole blood from two HD cohorts, and performed gene set enrichment analysis using public databases and weighted correlation network analysis modules from HD and control brain datasets. We identified dysregulated gene sets in blood that replicated in the independent cohorts, correlated with disease severity, corresponded to the most significantly dysregulated modules in the HD caudate, the most prominently affected brain region, and significantly overlapped with the transcriptional signature of HD myeloid cells. High-throughput sequencing technologies and use of gene sets likely surmounted the limitations of previously inconsistent HD blood expression studies. Our results suggest transcription is disrupted in peripheral cells in HD through mechanisms that parallel those in brain. Immune upregulation in HD overlapped with Alzheimer's disease, suggesting a common pathogenic mechanism involving macrophage phagocytosis and microglial synaptic pruning, and raises the potential for shared therapeutic approaches.

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