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Hum Mol Genet. 2018 Jan 15;27(2):239-253. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddx394.

HACE1 is essential for astrocyte mitochondrial function and influences Huntington disease phenotypes in vivo.

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Department of Medical Genetics, Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT), CFRI, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4H4, Canada.


Oxidative stress is a prominent feature of Huntington disease (HD), and we have shown previously that reduced levels of hace1 (HECT domain and Ankyrin repeat containing E3 ubiquitin protein ligase 1) in patient striatum may contribute to the pathogenesis of HD. Hace1 promotes the stability of Nrf2 and thus plays an important role in antioxidant response mechanisms, which are dysfunctional in HD. Moreover, hace1 overexpression mitigates mutant huntingtin (mHTT)-induced oxidative stress in vitro through promotion of the Nrf2 antioxidant response. Here, we show that the genetic ablation of hace1 in the YAC128 mouse model of HD accelerates motor deficits and exacerbates cognitive and psychiatric phenotypes in vivo. We find that both the expression of mHTT and the ablation of hace1 alone are sufficient to cause deficits in astrocytic mitochondrial respiration. We confirm the crucial role of hace1 in astrocytes in vivo, since its ablation is sufficient to cause dramatic astrogliosis in wild-type FVB/N mice. Astrogliosis is not observed in the presence of mHTT but a strong dysregulation in the expression of astrocytic markers in HACE1-/- x YAC128 striatum suggests an additive effect of mHTT expression and hace1 loss on this cell type. HACE1-/- x YAC128 mice and primary cells derived from these animals therefore provide model systems that will allow for the further dissection of Nrf2 pathways and astrocyte dysfunction in the context of HD.

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